Orange County Public Schools looking to offer rapid testing during school

Winegard Elementary School on Thursday will offer rapid COVID-19 testing after school for students. 

It’s part of a new initiative by the Florida Department of Health to increase access to testing and prevent the spread in schools. 

On day one of the after-school testings at Catalina Elementary School, and just a half-hour into it, 130 people had already shown. 

"There’s not a lot going on with kids as far as the shots and stuff like that so I guess if they test them, I guess we’ll see if more kids are getting it or not," said father Jesus Felix. 

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That’s the hope. The Florida Department of Health announced it would offer after-school COVID testing starting this week from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for students, teachers, and their families. 

More importantly, "the idea is also to accelerate testing for a school that we can prevent infections in the school," said Dr. Raul Pino, with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

Armando Velez’s mother and brother both work in Orange County Public Schools.

"I don’t think it’s such a bad idea at all because you’re preventing something from getting worse. If you don’t have the testing, you could be risking an unknown," Velez said.

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The Department of Health is looking to take testing a step further. They want to offer rapid testing during school to students and teachers who are showing symptoms but they are waiting on funding and approval. 

"The idea with the rapid testing in the schools, when we get there, that is intended to catch any cases that may have come to a school symptomatic," Dr. Pino said.

While some are excited about it, others are hesitant.

"I don’t mind it. If they’re just going to test them and see," Felix said.

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"After Fauci and all them said the mask ain’t working, the vaccine ain’t working, if she gets sick, she’s just going to be sick for a couple days. We [are] going to keep it moving," said Marty Florence, who lives in Orlando.

If in-school COVID testing is approved, it’s unclear whether the rapid tests would be used to reduce the number of students asked to quarantine or reduce isolation time. 

As of now, the Department of Health says isolation protocols in Orange County public schools remain the same.

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