The federal government is shipping Tennessee 2 million rapid COVID tests in which the results can be known on-the-spot. The state is trying to get them into schools, but administrators are hesitant to take on yet another responsibility.
“We don’t need to put another burden on schools right now, but they do need the benefit of [rapid tests],” says Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee’s health commissioner.
The state has already received nearly 900,000 of these 15-minute point-of-care test kits from Abbott called BinaxNow. Some of them have gone to nursing homes and prisons. Nationally, the Department of Health and Human Services is spending $760 million to push these tests out to states after purchasing 150 million units in August.
Tennessee wants to ramp up testing in educational settings for the first time is, and it’s proven complicated. Piercey says health officials are still figuring out a way to make tests available in schools.
“We don’t expect them to be clinics,” she says. “They’re not prepared to be clinics, and we understand that.”
Piercey says she’s hoping local health providers or pharmacies can step in and partner with schools.
The state is primarily interested in regular testing for teachers. They’re trying to catch illnesses early so fewer teachers come in contact with the positive case and have to quarantine.
This week, Oakland High School in Murfreesboro had to close mostly because so many teachers had been sent home and the school only had half the substitutes it needed.