NEW YORK – The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Thursday an initiative to provide guidance on testing for K-12 schools and connect schools with 21 laboratories and testing manufacturers.
"The K-12 National Testing Action Program: Connecting Schools with the Nation's Leading Testing Companies to Safely Reopen" (NTAP) offers guidance on both PCR and rapid antigen testing and is intended to help implement the $10 billion allotted to routine school testing in President Biden's American Rescue Plan.
The 21 companies included in the plan as testing partners are Becton Dickinson, Opko's BioReference Laboratories, CIC Health with the Broad Institute, Color Health, Exact Sciences, GENETWORx, Gingko BioWorks, Helix, Laboratory Corporation of America, PathGroup, Quest Diagnostics, Quidel, multiple regional Sonic Healthcare US labs, Sonora Quest Laboratories, UnitedHealth, and Veritas Genetics. Antigen test suppliers listed in the program are Abbott, BD, and Quidel.
"The $10 billion in federal funding and technical assistance from the Biden Administration along with breakthroughs in test technology and increases in test production will ensure that schools and their districts have the necessary resources to pay for tests and managing the necessary logistics of implementing an effective testing program," the foundation said in a statement.
The protocols the NTAP lays out are that schools should provide either PCR pooling or rapid antigen tests once per week for students and up to twice per week for teachers and staff. They should then offer follow-up diagnostic PCR or antigen testing for those in positive pools. The NATP recommends results be returned in a day or less, while costs for the tests and any related implementation strategies are reimbursed by the state from its allocation of the $10 billion ARP funding.
The document also provides guidance on how schools can choose which testing modality is best and how positive results should be reported to public health authorities. It also has a worksheet for schools that outlines key considerations for evaluating testing proposals and provides examples of school districts that have implemented weekly screening programs.
According to data from a Rockefeller Foundation pilot program of six schools, weekly testing of students, staff, and teachers can reduce in-school infections by an estimated 50 percent.