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State doesn't plan to disseminate rapid COVID-19 tests to schools

Health department updates school-related COVID-19 FAQ document

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WCS School bus

A Williamson County Schools bus

The Tennessee Department of Health recently updated its frequently asked questions concerning COVID-19 and schools, answering questions about mass testing, rapid tests, celebrations and more.

Last week, the department added a couple entries to this document pertaining to testing. The first addresses areas considering a mass testing strategy in November around Thanksgiving break and the end of the fall semester. According to the document, the department does not recommend the mass testing of asymptomatic people because it can make it more difficult for symptomatic individuals to receive a test.

"The testing of asymptomatic individuals also comes with a higher chance of a test not detecting the virus due to lower levels of virus in people who do not have symptoms," the document reads.

The health department also shared that, as it has recently received rapid test kits, it does not intend to disseminate them to schools, a statement echoed by Williamson County Health Director Cathy Montgomery during the Williamson County Board of Commission meeting Monday night.

"The overwhelming response from districts indicated they do not want COVID tests to be placed in the schools out of liability concern, test accuracy, risk of transmission from sick students coming to school for testing and the additional stress/duties places on overwhelmed school nurses," the health department document reads. "The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating other ways the rapid tests can increase capacity for testing students."

The document also addresses banquets and celebratory gatherings typically held by schools at the end of a sports season, upon a student group winning a competition or other occasions. The department recommends hosting events outdoors with social distancing guidelines in place in addition to other precautions.

"As with any gathering, the recommendation would be to have people cohorted by households and maintain distancing of at least 6 feet," the document reads. "As masks are not worn while eating, distancing is even more critical. Additionally, buffet lines are discouraged due to the handling of serving utensils by multiple people."

To read the full FAQ document, visit tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/cedep/novel-coronavirus/School_FAQ.pdf.

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