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Belle Fourche School Board Rejects Rapid Coronavirus Tests; Yankton Says Yes

On Monday, the Belle Fourche school board, which has not mandated masks to prevent coronavirus spread, turned down the state’s offer to provide BinaxNOW rapid coronavirus tests for its staff and students, because school district nurse Brandi VanSickle says even these “rapid” tests would swamp her already busy department:

VanSickle said the test involves a nasal swab and a test card. After 15 minutes, a result should be developed. The test’s accuracy, however, is questionable, she said, at around 75%.

To safely perform the test on a sick student in the school environment, Vansickle said she would don the full body personal protective equipment including a mask, shield, goggles, gowns, gloves, and booties.

In addition to supplies required to carry out each test, VanSickle said the amount of time expended would be substantial.

Say little “Billy” isn’t feeling good and is actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. VanSickle would call his parents are ask that they come pick him up. After waiting between 15-20 minutes for the parents to arrive, they’d be asked to sign a consent form to allow the nurse to perform the rapid test on their child.

Between waiting for consent, suiting up, and getting the results, VanSickle said it could be 45 minutes for each child tested. And that doesn’t include filling out and sending paperwork to send to the state Department of Health, as is required whether the test is negative or positive.

“I feel like that would require a lot of time and a lot of effort that we don’t have,” she said. “I really don’t see it as a need. This is something that should be done at a clinic between a provider and that parent” [Lacey Peterson, “Belle Fourche School District Gets Covid Update, Opts out of Rapid Testing,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.10.15].

Meanwhile, the Yankton school board, which mandates masks, this week approved deploying the BinaxNOW rapid tests:

“This is a requirement of the Department of Health, that we follow this,” [Superintendent Wayne] Kindle said. “The Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen test would provide parents with an option to have their child tested at school for COVID-19.”

The test would only be administered with parental permission, but it would not prevent students from being sent home, he cautioned.

Students who test negative would still have to go home, see a health care provider and get permission to return to the classroom.

“This test has about a 99% accuracy rate for testing positive, which is what we’re really testing for,” Kindle said. “On the other hand, approximately four out of 10 negative test results are false negatives.”

With that in mind, a negative test would still require follow-up with a health care provider for further COVID testing or to rule out some other health-related issue, he said.

“It’s a good reminder that, before COVID-19, if you had a fever or you were sick, we sent kids home,” Kindle said. “We did not want sick kids at school, and that remains the same with COVID-19.”

In a related issue, the school board also approved the extension of its mask mandate until its January meeting [Cora Van Olson, “YSD Gives Nod to In-House Rapid Covid Testing,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, updated 2020.10.13].

Yankton appears to recognize that, even if an organization can spare the time and money for onsite testing, it has to maintain other serious precautions—masks, social distancing, self-isolation when symptomatic—to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Otherwise, you end up like the White House, and no one wants that.


  1. Loren 2020-10-16 08:43

    Besides, Kristi says the more you test the more virus there is, and we sure don’t want to increase the pandemic! ( ? )

  2. o 2020-10-16 08:54

    Policy changes mean nothing without the infrastructure to support it. In our schools, “efficiency” means that trying to do something beyond an already stretched system is impossible. Rooms/facilities and staff, are not resources that can be increased immediately – even if funding were available. The new. extra stress of the COVID pandemic is widening the preexisting cracks in our schools.

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