Bronx students have access to new rapid COVID testing in schools

Dr. St. Louis MSHP testing at Roosevelt
Photo courtesy of Montefiore

Pediatric providers at six Montefiore School Health Program clinics are using new rapid testing to determine if children in school have flu, RSV or COVID-19.

Results are available within 40 minutes of providing a nasal swab sample.

The new Cepheid systems will begin testing in the remaining 25 Montefiore School Health Program clinics in the coming weeks. Thousands of Bronx children in elementary, middle and high schools with a clinic will have access to the test in their school.

Dr. Michele St. Louis, director, medical division Montefiore School Health Program, told the Bronx Times this program is open to any child who is enrolled in at PS 198, PS/MS 95, PS 18, New Settlement, Evander Childs and Theodore Roosevelt. Even if the students are doing remote learning, they can come to the school and get tested.

“People are very excited about this,” she said. “It has a great impact on the environment at the school.”

St. Louis explained that if a child has any type of symptoms they will know whether they have the flu or COVID-19 before they go home and if needed, will be isolated at school.

Now instead of waiting an hour in the emergency room or going to a doctor, the school can find out the health of it students in a quick efficient manner.

“It can have a ripple effect,” she explained. “The idea is to stop the spread. It’s really a game changer.”

The test uses PCR technology and does not require a second, confirmatory test. It is also beneficial for the school staff who will know almost immediately if they and their other students need to quarantine. Additionally, families are not charged for the test or the clinic visit.

“We know that many children learn better when they are physically in the classroom, and that there are psychosocial benefits when it can be done safely,” said Dr. Delaney Gracy, a pediatrician and director of clinical services at Montefiore School Health Program. “By having access to results so quickly, children won’t have to quarantine unnecessarily, and we can provide much better care, support and guidance when we know definitively if the illness is caused by COVID-19, flu, or RSV.”

The new four-in-one test enables contact tracing to begin immediately if a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, preventing further spread of the virus. The results are also automatically reported to the state, supporting city and statewide tracking of local prevalence rates.

Last year, providers at six of the Montefiore School Health Program clinics conducted a pilot study to implement the Cepheid rapid flu test in a school setting.

“We have been privileged to partner with the Montefiore School Health Program for many years and, most recently, on this extremely important initiative,” said Dr. Amy Fox, a virologist and pediatrician who is division chief of the Montefiore Pathology Department’s Point of Care Testing Program & Outreach Laboratories.

More from Around NYC

>