Results in 10 minutes: Lake County Schools offers rapid COVID-19 tests to students

Testing will be available throughout school year as well

A medical officer uses a rapid kit to test for the coronavirus at a government health center in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.) (Mahesh Kumar A, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Before the academic year begins, Lake County Schools is offering students and staff the opportunity to take a COVID-19 test for free and receive results in about 10 minutes.

The district announced Tuesday afternoon that it had partnered with Adult Medicine of Lake County, the Department of Health in Lake County and Lake County government to make the rapid testing available to any student or employee who would like it.

“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay said in a news release. “Having the ability to quickly determine when someone has been infected will help us minimize risk of infection to others. We will know exactly who should be quarantined and when it’s safe for them to return.”

A district communications officer said employees will be able to go to testing sites set up at high schools on specific days while students will be asked to go to sites Adult Medicine is setting up around the county later this month.

She said more details on the exact dates and locations will be communicated with parents and employees in the coming days.

In addition to the testing before the semester starts on Aug. 24, Lake County Schools also plans to have roving nurses available throughout the school year to test symptomatic students and employees with the goal being to accurately identify those who may need to quarantine without shutting down entire classrooms and schools.

Leaders said they also hope that parents will not try to hide their child’s illness by giving them a pain reliever to break their fever and then sending them to school.

“This will help us establish a baseline,” school board member Bill Mathias said in a news release. “Parents can send their children to school knowing that we are making every effort to create a safe learning environment.”

The rapid tests will be done utilizing a finger prick and will provide results within 10 minutes.

Matt Cady, of Adult Medicine of Lake County, explained how those rapid tests will help assist the district.

“In the event of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in the school district, our use of rapid tests, which return results in minutes versus using traditional nasal swab tests, which can take weeks to return results, will allow us to quickly identify those that have truly become infected with COVID-19, isolate those individuals and diminish the risk of lengthy and unnecessary quarantine periods for staff and students who are in fact not confirmed as being diagnosed with COVID-19,” Cady said in a news release. “This ability for swift testing will allow the school district to maintain a better handle on the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Throughout the year as the need arises, students and staff can continue to be tested at convenient locations throughout the community. Overall, this will give the school district the ability to specifically address the needs of the individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 versus treating everyone with the same less effective blanket quarantine policy.”

Those who test positive will be asked to quarantine for three days, take another test at that time and return to campus once they test negative.

“Many of our parents work outside the home and the idea of a blanket 10- to 14-day quarantine could sideline them financially,” Mathias said in a news release. “With rapid testing, that quarantine period can be drastically reduced for those who are not infected. Students can get back to thriving in their classrooms and parents can get back to work much more quickly.”

The district is also attempting to acquire acrylic partitions for classrooms and a protective coating that could prevent viruses and bacteria from adhering to and growing on flat surfaces.

To read more on the reopening plan for Lake County Schools, click here.