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80+ Dane County schools now capable of rapid COVID-19 testing

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monona grove covid training

MONONA (WKOW) -- In November, two UW-Madison researchers started rapid COVID-19 testing pilot programs at two Dane County Schools. Since then, it's expanded to more than 80 schools.

Monday, nurses in the Monona Grove School District received their COVID-19 tests and training from the UW researchers.

"It's going to help us be able to quarantine students and isolate students faster because we'll have the results right then and there," said Kate Wittig, a nurse at both Monona Grove High School and Winnequah School.

Students 4K to grade 2 will be returning in-person to the district on January 25. Older students will be returning in-person in the following weeks, as well.

The district says it will use the tests on students and staff who develop COVID-like symptoms at school.

"This is just another tool to help us keep our community safe," Wittig said.

Professors Dave and Shelby O'Connor conducted Monday's training and have been leading the effort to get rapid testing into local schools.

"You came over when we had our first two schools in mid-November," Dave O'Connor said. "Now we've worked with a number of independent and public school districts in Dane County... including the Madison Metropolitan School District."

The O'Connors received an allotment of tests from the federal government and say 80 percent of the tests they received are now in schools. They're currently working to get more.

Dave O'Connor says they're a crucial tool to stop the spread in schools as vaccines roll out.

"We don't know yet how well the vaccines will prevent transmission of the virus," he said. "What that means is that there's still going to be a need to test people, to identify those who are infected and contagious and who could potentially infect those who have not yet been vaccinated."

O'Connor says the districts are free to use the tests how they like. He says they're just one part of a COVID mitigation strategy, like wearing masks and social distancing.

"It empowers (districts) to be able to identify symptomatic people and help guide those individuals to a quick result, and identify the close contacts of anyone who might be positive more quickly," he said. "The idea is to try to intercept transmission networks before they can get established in schools."

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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