Weekly COVID tests becoming available for Westport students

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The Connecticut Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the Connecticut State Department of Education, has received federal funding to offer a weekly serial COVID-19 testing option for unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade at no cost.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the Connecticut State Department of Education, has received federal funding to offer a weekly serial COVID-19 testing option for unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade at no cost.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Parents of young students will be able to have them tested regularly for COVID within a few weeks, according to a letter sent Wednesday to Westport families.

The letter, sent by Westport schools supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur stated that the Connecticut Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the state Department of Education, has received federal funding to offer a weekly serial COVID-19 testing option for unvaccinated students in kindergarten through sixth grade at no cost.

“The purpose of this program is to quickly identify cases and reduce the risk of school-based COVID-19 transmission,” the letter reads. “This program will be completely voluntary and will require signed parental consent.”

As of Wednesday, Westport public schools had 19 staff and students who had tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating, and 109 staff and students are in quarantine.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has said in the past that Westport will participate in the state program. Several other cities and towns are also participating in the program, including Bridgeport and Darien.

Because the program was just officially announced to parents, it’s “premature” to predict how well-received the offer will be. “We do not know who is interested,” he said. “It was sent out hours ago.”

According to the letter, the test will be an anterior shallow nasal swab PCR. Each participating child will be swabbed weekly at school.

“All specimens are initially processed as a ‘pooled’ PCR test, which will include testing samples from 5 different students,” the student reads. “If a pool of specimens tests positive, individual PCR tests to identify the positive participant(s) in the pool will be conducted with the same testing samples.”

Pooled tests are completed in 24 hours and individual tests, if needed, are completed within another 24 hours. In the event that a “pooled” sample is positive, the five students in that pool will be asked to remain out of school for the additional 24 hours until the positive individual case is identified.

Westport’s test administrator is Progressive Diagnostics, and testing is expected to start in the next few weeks, though Scarice said no specific date has been given yet. Parents who want their children to participate must complete a consent form.