Tacoma Public Schools is partnering with the Washington State Department of Health to offer free, voluntary COVID-19 tests to students showing symptoms of the virus. Tests will be available in all of our schools shortly after the start of the school year. (In the meantime, find local testing options here.)
Why offer testing at school?
Testing serves as an early warning system to stop outbreaks from spreading in schools. In combination with our other safety mitigation strategies – wearing masks, physical distancing, contact tracing and frequent hand washing – testing can help reduce time away from school and the number of students who are required to quarantine by quickly identifying and isolating infected individuals.
Testing is voluntary and free
Families opt-in to the testing program by signing a consent form.
There is no out-of-pocket cost or co-pay for schools or families. The Washington State Department of Health covers costs for the tests, with funding continuing through July 2022.
Have insurance? Great. Your provider will get billed directly with no cost to you.
No insurance? No problem. Just provide a valid government-issued ID and you’re good to go.
If you do not provide insurance or a government I.D., you can still get tested at no charge.
Quick, accurate test results
Samples are collected by the student or parent using a shallow nasal swab – not the dreaded “brain tickler” or nasopharyngeal swab. A trained TPS employee observes the process. Tests get sent to a lab to be tested via PCR (or polymerase chain reaction), the gold standard in accuracy for COVID-19 testing.
Results are reported back to the school and family within 24-48 hours, at which time appropriate quarantine and contact tracing protocols can be started.
With regards to patient privacy, it’s no different than getting tested at a doctor’s office.
All health information for students is kept private and is protected under federal HIPAA regulations (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Our contact tracers will be alerted of positive test results and will immediately start contact tracing and outbreak mitigation procedures.
As usual, every positive case will be reported to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for contact tracing.
What to do when you receive test results
If the test is positive, students will need to isolate for at least 10 days from the date of their positive test, until any new symptoms have resolved, and after 24 hours of no fever.
If they test negative and have not been exposed to someone with a positive COVID-19 test, they will be asked to isolate for at least 24 hours and until symptoms have improved, including being fever-free for 24 hours.
Get more information
Learn more about this testing program here: Parents & Students - Learn to Return.
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