COVID Testing

Pool-Based Saliva Testing Program Coming to K–12

A company that does develops COVID-19 testing management programs for colleges and universities is bringing its services to K-12 schools. CoVerified is working with Mirimus Clinical Labs, which performs saliva pool testing, to launch CoVerifiedPool, a mechanism for testing student populations regularly and affordably.

Under this approach, 24 individual saliva samples are pooled for testing in the lab rather than at a collection site, and samples are processed as a single test. According to the companies, the technique does away with the "invasive" nasal swab testing and may work better for "young student populations." With the SalivaClear approach, the saliva is collected at home, which decreases the need for on-site staffing to perform the testing.

The process has been implemented at the Wellesley Public Schools District in Massachusetts, where students and staff in middle and high schools undergo weekly testing. The model, according to participants, has enabled the district to reopen.

Pool-Based Saliva Testing Program Coming to K–12

A district web page dedicated to the subject explained that student kits will be distributed in middle school home rooms; at the high school level, students pick up their kits in the cafeteria. The individual kits are registered online and the saliva is collected at home on Monday or Tuesday mornings and samples dropped off that same day in dedicated receptacles, keeping staff and students from the same building in the same pool. Those are shipped off to Mirimus' location in Brooklyn, NY and results are made available within 24 to 48 hours. When the pool includes a positive sample, it's automatically retested, but in "pairs." If one of the pairs shows a positive result, the two participants in that pair are asked to do another saliva sample, and those individual results are returned within a couple of hours.

While the district mandates testing for its 1,300 staff, it doesn't do that for students as a requirement for returning to campus. However, it does "highly encourage" participation as a way to keep the schools safe. Anonymous testing results are made publicly available through an online dashboard.

Along with testing, the district also has put other safety practices in place: mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing.

Much of the cost for Wellesley's testing program was covered by a combination of grants, donations and CARES Act relief funding.

"Saliva-based pool testing is a critically important approach for minimizing risk as we get students back into the classroom," said Brandon Busuito, a medical doctor and co-founder and CEO of CoVerified, in a statement. "A holistic software and testing approach tailored to unique needs of students and educators is crucial to achieving success in schools. Even as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues, robust surveillance testing is key to ensuring a safe learning environment."

CoVerifiedPool is expected to be fully available starting on Jan. 31, 2021.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.