Culpeper County Public Schools was recently approved to participate in a pilot program allowing students and staff to receive the BinaxNOW coronavirus antigen test.
These nasal swab tests - which are most accurate when administered to symptomatic individuals - return results in about 15 minutes, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The testing program, which will run through June, was launched by Virginia’s departments of education and health. The health department is providing free testing supplies and implementation guidance.
According to the school system's mitigation plan, the tests are available to students and staff experiencing coronavirus symptoms. The plan explains that an individual who tests negative can possibly return to school depending upon their symptoms and risk factors. For some, a follow-up PCR test may be necessary before they can return to school or work.
The tests are also available to those who were exposed to an infected individual at school or work and for individuals believed to be close contacts of an infected individual.
For the latter, the test will be offered on the fifth day after the close contact exposure. If the test is returned negative, the student or staff member can return to school or work on the eighth day after exposure if they are asymptomatic.
Parents or guardians of children under 18 must approve the test.
If it is recommended by public health officials due to high infection rates, the mitigation plan adds that students and staff may be tested to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus in asymptomatic persons within a location or group.
If a student is symptomatic or believed to be a close contact of an infected person and refuses to be tested, the plan states that they will be excluded from school for up to 14 days. It adds that a nurse's decision to request that a student be tested cannot be appealed.
Superintendent Dr. Anthony Brads previously noted that testing will likely play some role in achieving the goal of offering five days of in-person learning next school year.