After an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, Hartford Public Schools announced they will provide coronavirus testing for students and staff. School nurses have been trained to administer the tests to symptomatic students and will work in partnership with Hartford HealthCare and Trinity Health of New England.
The partnership will allow for mobile centers to provide on-site testing starting in October.
Mayor Luke Bronin said the city has logged 145 new COVID-19 cases over the past weeks, including 15 in the school system. According to contact tracers, the cases resulted from small gatherings.
“Coupled with in-school testing, sample collection done by school nurses, we think that this focus on mobile testing at school locations will be another important tool to allow us to identify spread, contain it and act quickly,” said Bronin.
There is no statewide policy for mandatory testing of students and staff, but guidance from the state indicates that testing should be prioritized in communities with a high concentration of poverty and multigenerational households, as well as among essential workers.
”Part of this activity that we’re doing is having this availability of this testing in different schools and different neighborhoods at least once a month so we can make that help easier for these communities,” said Liany Arroyo, director of the Hartford Health Department.
Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said that while the positive cases don’t indicate the need for a shift in the learning model just yet, county and local data will be monitored closely.
Additionally, the superintendent announced a partnership with the UConn School of Social Work called HPS Heals. The initiative would bring social work students into districts to work directly with families and staff to improve health and safety outcomes for students and their communities.
“Two consistent themes in our surveys and town halls with families and staff were around COVID-19 testing and social-emotional support for our students,” said Torres-Rodriguez.
This new initiative is also set to begin in October, with the intention of responding to the trauma experienced by students and staff during the pandemic and the recent rise in racial tensions in the nation.
Brenda Leon is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.