BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Schools are adding weekly, no-symptom COVID-19 screenings for in-person learning starting in March.
The screenings are designed to provide an early detection system where individuals may not initially exhibit signs of COVID-19.
Details will be offered to the community through a new website that will launch in the coming days.
City Schools will provide the following no-symptom screenings weekly:
- Pooled screenings for elementary grades - Students in elementary grades will participate in pooled, or group, screenings offered by Concentric by Ginkgo. Groups of students and staff in classroom pods will use short swabs to self-administer the collection of their own sample. Each group's samples will be tested together, providing a single result for each group. The swabbing process is gentle: unlike the “brain tingling” deep penetration COVID-19 tests, the swab test used by City Schools does not require more than a swab around the inside edge of the nose. Results for each group test will be made available to City Schools.
- Individual saliva screenings at high schools – High school students and staff will be individually tested each week through a self-administered saliva-based test offered by Shield T3. Test tubes are then sent to a mobile lab funded by American University and located at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. The test takes minutes to administer and provides results within eight hours of delivery to the mobile lab. Parents, staff, and students may download an app that will give them their child’s COVID-19 test results each week.
Use of the Shield T3 screening at high schools results from City Schools’ partnership with American University and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. City Schools is the first K-12 school system in the region to participate through the Consortium.
On-site testing through both these initiatives eliminates the time-consuming commute to various screenings locations by hundreds of employees, staff, or students.
The addition of no-symptom, or asymptomatic, screenings are part of a comprehensive health and safety strategy offered by City Schools.
This new tool further strengthens current efforts such as proactive, large-scale purchases of PPE items such as ample masks, face shield, desk shields, soap and hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies purchased centrally by the district and distributed to schools.
In recent months, City Schools has also purchased at least 8,600 air purifiers and upgraded air filters to support improved air purification and filtering.
The district has also supported a large-scale vaccination effort for staff.
Additional core health and safety strategies include grouping students into classroom pods to avoid the spread of germs, entryway health screenings, and on-site screenings for individuals that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.