AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a March expiration date rapidly approaching, the Eanes Independent School District will be easing up its protocols to allow more students to receive rapid COVID-19 testing at their leisure in order to deplete its existing supply of tests.
A spokesperson for EISD said the district has only used about 200 of the BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen tests, which expire at the end of March. That’s barely 10% of the 1,960 tests provided by the state.
“It’s a pretty short shelf-life of the time we were given the tests, taking time to get into the program, getting everything set up. Then we had thanksgiving and the holiday break,” said Molly May, the Chief Student Support Officer For Eanes ISD, while she also noted that testing is primarily being done through volunteers. “So it does feel like a compacted amount of time, but we’d like to use as many tests as we can. That’s our ultimate goal. I don’t want to have any tests that expire.”
Up until now, testing has only been offered to staff. But beginning within the next week or two, testing will be expanded to students, with large-scale testing days provided on weekends during February and March.
There are no additional plans to mandatorily require testing of students participating in extracurriculars, but school officials say students may choose to receive a rapid test ahead of events, if they choose.
May said that in mid-February, the district will reassess its supply of tests and return any surplus to the Texas Department of Emergency Management to be redistributed.
The Austin Independent School District has had multiple large-scale mass testing days offered to students and staff for the past few months. It is still unclear how many remaining rapid tests are being stored within the AISD warehouse and what their expiration dates are.
Previously only allowed to in-person students, AISD has now opened testing to remote learners and staff on Thursday, Jan. 21 and Friday, Jan. 29. People can go to either the north location at Northeast Early College High School (Nelson Field) or the south location at the Austin ISD Central Office. Testing today goes from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Liza Camarillo, a teacher at AISD, said she was exposed to COVID-19 from someone who was asymptomatic. She received an rapid test from the district on Thursday, which came back negative.
“Today is the last day of my 14-day quarantine from a school exposure, so it was very helpful to get a negative result and helped my anxiety,” Camarillo said. “It’s just peace of mind.”
A mom to two high schoolers who are involved in extracurriculars, Camarillo said she would like to see testing continue to ramp up, including screening asymptomatic students and teachers once a week.
“If you can make teachers feel more comfortable, you might as well use them,” Camarillo said.
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On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that offers federal resources to help buy rapid COVID-19 tests for school districts.
But while they may give results faster, rapid tests are known to be less accurate than others. The CDC found rapid tests were 80 percent accurate if a person was showing symptoms. But if a person was asymptomatic, the tests were only right 41 percent of the time.
There are two types of rapid tests: molecular and antigen. According to research from the Harvard Medical School, the false-negative rate for a molecular test is about 20 percent when testing is done five days after symptoms begin. False negatives happen more often with antigen tests because it requires less complex technology than molecular testing.