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Expanded COVID-19 Testing at Local Public and Private Schools

Associated Press
In this March 3, 2020, file photo, Hawaiʻi Department of Health microbiologist Mark Nagata demonstrates the process for testing a sample for coronavirus at the department's laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaiʻi.

Until vaccines can be offered to those under 12 years of age, there is lots of concern about being able to keep our keiki safe. Students at Hawaiʻi public and private schools are eligible for more COVID-19 testing through a new federal program.

Operation Expanded Testing is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of its goals is to keep schools open for in-person learning.

Unlike the free at-home rapid antigen test program for Oʻahu residents, Operation Expanded Testing uses the more sensitive RT-PCR assay test.

Sixty-seven schools are already actively testing or learning the logistics.

Kara Gormont, the school testing director at the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, says some schools are coming up with creative ways to test.

"There is one school that is going to be the central hub for all of their complex area. All of their feeder schools will go to this high school to get their testing done, so they've already had a couple of launches and are continuing to grow that program," she told HPR's The Conversation. "We have another smaller elementary school that has already done testing enough times that they feel comfortable actually doing a randomized sampling, so they are going to be letting their students know if they've been selected for testing — and if their parents consent, they would be able to start testing.”

Gormont said there are some delays with test results but a local laboratory is expected to process the tests starting next month.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 29, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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