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COVID-19 Test For Asymptomatic People Coming To Somerset ISD

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A pilot program to test asymptomatic persons for COVID-19 will begin at the Somerset Independent School District later this month.

The effort was spearheaded by a group of nonprofit organizations led by Rackspace founder Graham Weston. He said he contracted the virus from his son.

"Asymptomatic testing is also called assurance testing," Weston explained. "The idea is go through people of people who don’t have disease and find those who actually have the virus silently."

In March, the Federal Drug Administration granted the test Emergency Use Authorization, a status all COVID-19 tests used in the U.S. possess, and it has been in use ever since. The test can be self-administered, and the results can be obtained in less than 24 hours.

Dr. Rachel Beddard, the chief medical officer at BioBridge Global, said the PCR test was not new. "We just took an existing test that works really well, and we're using it in asymptomatic folks," she explained.

Community Labs, a non-profit organization overseen by BioBridge Global, planned to test all students and teachers in the Somerset ISD beginning on Sept. 23.

District Superintendent Dr. Saul Hinojosa explained why the district joined the pilot program: "For us it was very easy. We need kids in the classroom so they can learn."

Hinojosa said only about half of the district’s students attend classes as fears over the virus abound.

But he sensed the prospect of a new weapon in the COVID-19 fight would help.

"The anxiety level, as far as we’re concerned, has just gone down," he explained, "because we know that Somerset ISD is gonna be safer for our teachers and for our students."

Hinojosa said he took the test himself this week.

The company said it hoped to expand its capacity to 12,000 tests per day in the near future.

Jerry Clayton can be reached at Jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @JerryClayton.

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