New rapid COVID-19 testing pilot program underway in Middletown schools

Middlesex

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Middletown is the first in the state to join a pilot program in which students and staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms can get a BinaxNOW rapid test right outside the school.

RELATED: New program gives Middletown school community access to rapid COVID-19 testing

“With this Binax test it’s less intrusive,” explained Gov. Ned Lamont. “You put it in the credit-card-size chemical container and in less than 15 minutes you get a result.”

And then school officials can decide what needs to be done next.

“If you get a positive on a Binax, you’re positive and you have COVID-19 and you should quarantine,” said Yvette Highsmith-Francis who is with the Community Health Center. 

So far her organization, which is partnering with the schools, has administered 10 rapid tests and there have been two positives. 

In addition to the rapid tests, the Middletown School Department is also putting on a drive-thru testing site at one of the schools each Wednesday for people who don’t have any symptoms.

Last Wednesday four people (two staff members and two students) at the high school were found to be positive at the mobile testing site there. As a result, 82 students and 21 staff members were put in quarantine, and the high school was put into remote learning for two weeks.

“It did really help with lots of containment,” said Highsmith-Francis.

“We wouldn’t have known because both of the individuals that tested positive were asymptomatic at the time,” said Dr. Michael Conner.

“If it had gone another week we would have had dozens of positive cases,” said Mayor Ben Florsheim, (D) Middletown.

As for the rapid tests:

“We have a new mechanism in our portfolio of safety measures,” said Dr. Conner.

So far, only the Middletown school district is part of the pilot program, but the state Commissioner of Education said there are around 15 to 20 other school districts who hope to take part in it and partner with a local healthcare agency.

“I think this is a strategy not only to help keep schools functioning but also to lower the spread in the community which is critically important,” said State Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona.

The governor says the state could have a million rapid tests available by the end of the year, according to the federal government, and it has plenty now for any school districts which need them.

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