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Missouri sending 135K antigen tests to public, private schools

Missouri is sending about 135,000 COVID-19 antigen tests to public and private K-12 schools this week, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The rapid tests are the first batch being sent to the more than 300 districts and schools that applied to participate in the state’s BinaxNOW Antigen Testing Program for K-12 Institutions, the department said in a news release. 

About 135,000 tests are expected to be sent out Monday and Tuesday with another 105,000 to be deployed once the remaining districts and schools “provide the final required assurances and documentation,” Mallory McGowin, the DESE communications coordinator, told The Missouri Times. 

“The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues to work hard to make any and all resources available to school leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic,” DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said. “We believe these rapid antigen tests, in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, could be instrumental in helping schools provide onsite learning opportunities safely. We appreciate colleagues at DHSS and the State Emergency Management Agency for working quickly with our team on this important initiative.” 

Once schools and districts receive the nasal swab tests, they will be administered by a health professional — with many doing so on-site — after parental or guardian consent with results available in about 15 minutes. According to DESE, some schools partnered with local health departments or medical providers to administer the tests. 

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) will be alerted of both positive and negative test results. 

The tests are distributed as part of a program Missouri schools and districts — both public and private — could apply to in order to receive up to one Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen test per student and staff member. The federal government allocated a certain amount of tests for each state, and it was then up to the state to determine how to utilize those, McGowin said. 

To be eligible for the program, districts and schools had to agree to have medical professionals administer the test, complete certain training and documentation, be able to store the maximum amount of tests requested, and have a process in-place for disposal of infectious waste, among other criteria. 

For the week ending in Oct. 23, Missouri’s positivity rate for COVID-19 for the state method hovered at nearly 23 percent for the seven day period. (For the CDC method, the positivity rate was 11.5 percent.) In all, more than 171,000 Missourians have tested positive this year.