Facing complaints from some school districts about the delayed implementation of COVID-19 pooled testing, a Massachusetts representative is urging state leaders to consider deploying the National Guard to get the testing programs up and running.
State Representative Mindy Domb said Tuesday that many districts applied to participate in the state’s testing programs before the start of the school year, but still haven’t received the services. In her own district, both Amherst Regional Public Schools and Granby Public Schools are still waiting for testing services, Domb said.
Lexington Superintendent Julie Hackett also has been vocal about the delayed implementation of pooled testing, calling the state’s program “challenging.”
“When things aren’t working well, sometimes it’s good to pause until we have worked out the kinks,” Hackett wrote in a letter to the Lexington school community on Sept. 20. She said her district will resume the weekly testing after some “necessary changes” are made.
Domb asked state leaders Tuesday to share the number of school districts that have applied for pool testing and the number that have received the services as of Friday.
“Clearly the inconsistent rollout of the pooled testing program could be jeopardizing the health of our school communities, including the most vulnerable students, those who are under age 12 and ineligible for vaccination at this time,” she wrote in a letter to Governor Charlie Baker, Education Secretary James Peyser, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, and Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Margret Cooke.
Massachusetts schools and districts, both private and public, are being offered free access this year to both diagnostic COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts, and routine pooled testing for students and staff members. More than 2,200 schools have already signed up — double the participation from last year, according to the state.
In an effort to quickly resolve the delays with COVID-19 testing in schools, Domb recommended the state activate the National Guard to help — the same way Guard members have been deployed to drive school vans in recent weeks as districts face bus driver shortages.
“By your own description, pooled testing is a critical resource for maintaining healthy school environments while we continue battling the COVID-19 virus,” Domb wrote. “Many of our school communities currently do not have this resource (pooled testing) and we must make every effort to ensure that they can operate safely.”
Read the full letter from State Representative Mindy Domb: