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COVID-19 rapid tests coming to Arizona, school officials to give nasal swabs

Posted at 4:10 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 20:28:01-04

PHOENIX — Millions of rapid tests will be on their way to Arizona, but ABC15 is learning that the nasal tests intended for schools will be administered by school employees or nurses.

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A day after Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey put out a press release announcing 2.19 million rapid point of care tests will be sent to Arizona for congregate care settings and K-12 schools.

“Arizona is grateful to President Trump for his continued partnership during this pandemic and for once again prioritizing our state,” said Governor Ducey in a press release, “These new FDA-approved rapid tests will allow us to quickly identify cases and prevent outbreaks among our most vulnerable citizens.”

However, ABC15 is learning that these tests are supposed to be done in a lab setting, so school districts will have to apply for a special waiver from the state or they will have to be associated with a certified of waived lab.

A spokesperson for ADHS wrote in an email, “Facilities that have a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certificate of waiver can implement the test, though they do not need to be CLIA-certified laboratories. There are a couple of different routes on how this can be achieved, including applying for a waiver or being associated with a CLIA-certified or waived lab.”

We asked Jeffrey Lee, President of the Arizona Local Health Officers Association about the CLIA-certificates, “it requires a CLIA certificate, or waiver, and that’s a certificate that shows that you understand infectious disease testing, how to prepare them, store them, administer them, and then how to report the results.”

As for applying for the waivers, ADHS said, “school districts and congregate care settings may already have a CLIA certificate of waiver to administer point-of-care tests. Public health will be working with interested school districts to apply for waivers, as necessary.

The nasal swab tests will be administered by school employees or school nurses who receive the training, but it’s unclear what the training will be.

“With the accessibility of the test, the rapid test, very easy to use,” said Lee, “we can get them in the hands of the people that are frontline with the congregate settings. So, if we can get a test result of a kid who may have a stomachache, we can prevent them from getting in the classroom and spreading to the 20-25 students in the classroom.”

The state expects 142,000 BinaxNOW antigen tests to arrive this week and they will be handed out as soon as possible.

“County health departments, as the experts on local conditions, will determine which schools and congregate settings should be prioritized. They may prioritize schools and facilities in areas that have higher rates or percent positivity, facilities with current outbreaks, or other identified areas of need,” a spokesperson for ADHS said.

We asked Lee if there are concerns about testing becoming overwhelming for schools, “I think it’s going to be a combination of training from ADHS, to the county health departments,” he said, “as far as a burden on the school, I think it’s actually going to be a great tool for them, the burden right now is trying to identify a student, go through the list of symptoms, talk to the county health department, talk to the parents, and so you can alleviate all those steps.”