COVINGTON, Ga. — To quickly identify positive COVID-19 cases and help reduce the spread of the novel virus, Newton County Schools has launched a testing program.
District officials announced Tuesday morning that the "voluntary, weekly" COVID-19 testing program was underway in select schools, including South Salem Elementary, Liberty Middle, Veterans Memorial Middle and West Newton Elementary. The program is free, and officials said more schools would begin offering the program as early as next week.
The testing program's launch comes on the heels of Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey's decision this past weekend to lift the district's mask mandate and have the use of face coverings only be encouraged.
Director of Student Services Ashante Everett said surveillance testing was one of the mitigating strategies used to assist in lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission in district schools.“We plan to begin the voluntary testing program in eight additional schools the week of Nov. 15,” Everett said in a news release. “Our goal is to have the voluntary program implemented in all schools by the end of the month.”
Everett said testing was "completely voluntary," and each participating school would provide advance notice to parents for when testing will take place.
“If you signed a consent for your child to participate in the program, you can still opt out at any time by contacting the school nurse,” Everett said.
Approximately 1,800 students have opted into the program. Everett said parents may still sign up their student by contacting the school nurse.
“The testing program will also help identify positive cases in people who do not show any symptoms of the virus,” Chief Operations Officer Michael Barr said. “Testing will allow us to continue regular, in-person learning while making everyone feel safer when in-person.”
Officials stated the COVID-19 test was "quick, easy and does not hurt." The test consists of a nasal swab to the lower nostril. Once a swap is taken from a student, it is sent to a lab. Parents can expect to receive results within 24 hours, officials said.
Everett said the testing process takes "a matter of seconds" for each student, so it would fit into their school day without disrupting learning.
“The COVID-19 test is free,” she reiterated. “Parents do not need to pay for the test or utilize insurance. This is just one more way we can minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, which ultimately keeps them open.”
At last report from the Georgia Department of Public Health, Newton County had 133 new COVID-19 cases reportedly confirmed within the last two weeks.
For more information about the testing program, Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.
Earlier this month, the CDC authorized Pfizer’s vaccine could now be administered for children age 5 and older — a decision President Joe Biden reportedly called, “a turning point in our battle against COVID-19.”
As of Tuesday morning, 50% of Georgians were fully vaccinated with 56% having at least one dose, according to the GDPH. In Newton County, only 42% had been fully vaccinated, while 47% had received at least one dose.
For continued guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations, visit CDC.gov or dph.georgia.gov.