Testing the odds

COVID tests become offered to staff in the district


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Teachers across the district can get tested on three separate occasions, each week until Winter break. They are able to get a Surveillance test, with results in a few hours. ”Regular contact tracing was getting more difficult because of the overall number of cases in the area,” Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin J. Chick said. “Surveillance Testing would give us a more realistic look at asymptomatic carriers of the virus.”

Jasmine Hermosillo-Padilla, Editor-in-Chief Catalyst Online

Starting on Friday, December 4, Millard began offering COVID testing to all staff at all of the schools in the district. The testing will be offered in the buildings one day each week, on a rotating basis for the rest of the semester.

In order for a staff member to be screened, they needed to reserve a time. The Human Resources department sent all staff an email where they could sign up for a test at the building where they work.

“The method that was used for testing teachers is often referred to as Surveillance Testing,” English teacher Patty Knudson said. “It is a means to test people for COVID that might not have symptoms. The testing is done by having subjects spit into a vial. The vial is then taken to be tested for traces of the virus.” 

Within a few hours, results are emailed to the teachers informing them if they are positive or negative for COVID. If one does end up getting a positive test back, they will be sent to take an Antigen (rapid) or PCR Test, which is a nasal test. If they received a negative test on the follow-up test they can come back to work the following day.  

“The benefit to getting this testing done is to see how many asymptomatic staff we have in the District,” Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin J. Chick said. “We will be able to identify them for further testing that is needed after.” 

With the rising numbers of positive COVID tests, the district has been encouraging the teachers to take advantage of this free testing. 

 “I started exploring options that would give members better peace of mind, and another tool to help react better to cases and keep people safe,” President of the Millard Education Association Tim Royers said. “I came across a Lincoln Journal Star article about how UNL had proposed using rapid, on site, spit based tests as a first line of defense to help more quickly identify potential cases. When I found a potential provider, I started discussing the possibility with district leaders in our regular meetings. From there, the district worked with Douglas County Health, secured a funding partner, and lined up rapid testing for the remaining weeks of the semester.”

The offered testing allows it to detect cases that may have potentially spread because a person was asymptomatic. Many positive instances indicate that screening purely based on symptoms is insufficient. 

“This testing should help Millard to better trace COVID infections in our school,” Knudson said. “Right now, we do not know how many asymptomatic cases we have in school. This also allows teachers who are concerned about the number of positive COVID cases in the school to be tested without having to take time off to do so.”

This is one more tool that the district is using to help keep students and staff safe during the pandemic. 

With following the guidelines put into place throughout the school, and at home, the amount of positive cases could potentially lower until a vaccine can be used outside of clinical trials and is available to everyone.