WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — School nurses in Palm Beach County will begin training on Monday to administer a rapid COVID-19 test to students that can detect the virus within 15 minutes, officials say.
Dr. Belma Andrić, the chief medical officer for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, told school board members on Wednesday that the School District of Palm Beach County will soon receive shipments of the BinaxNOW antigen test.
The test from Abbott Laboratories has been highly touted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the last two weeks.
"We are very excited about this," Dr. Andrić told school board members. "Our main role is to prevent transmission in the schools. That's why this test is really solidly good for what we need. This test is good because it gives us a rapid answer during the early infection, and those are the kids presenting with the symptoms."
Dr. Andrić said the BinaxNOW test, which is FDA approved, is only for students who present symptoms of COVID-19 and is more than 80% accurate.
"Performing of the test is actually just a few swirls in one nostril and the other nostril. It does not have to go very deep like in the beginning of the pandemic," Dr. Andrić said.
The chief medical officer added that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the School District of Palm Beach County has not yet received shipments of the test.
Eventually, the testing kits will be given to, not only public schools, but charter and private schools as well in Palm Beach County.
Dr. Andrić said the school district is in the "final phases" of contract updates to allow staff members to also be screened for COVID-19 using the BinaxNOW test.
"We're working with your leaders and formalizing legally this relationship. We're very willing to do that for teachers as well from day one to offer screening and testing," Dr. Andrić said
Florida is currently in the process of receiving 400,000 BinaxNOW testing kits, which will be distributed to schools, senior communities, long-term care facilities, and various testing sites throughout the state first, according to DeSantis.
On Tuesday, the governor said the goal is to avoid "healthy quarantining," in which students are forced to quarantine even if it's undetermined if someone in their class has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
"These tests really give you the ability to take that off the table if you have somebody that's symptomatic, but is negative," DeSantis said. "We want to keep as many students in the classroom as we can."