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Pool COVID-19 Testing Program 'A Key Tool' For Schools, Baker Says At Newburyport Tour

NEWBURYPORT (CBS) – Governor Charlie Baker visited a school in Newburyport Friday morning to get a look at its pooled COVID-19 testing program.  The governor told reporters it was "a real pleasure" to see the system finally underway at the Nock-Molin Middle School.

"This pool testing program, which we we're here today to take a look at, is something that got launched as a first in the nation demonstration a few months ago, basically, to add a key tool to school districts and to schools which was the ability to do some sort of pretty consistent, relatively uncomplicated weekly surveillance program around testing," Baker said.

He was joined by Secretary of Education James Peyser, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, and Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday at the event.

Students at the school are part of a pooled testing program there to support in-person learning. Pool testing is not required for in-person learning and it is voluntary.

About 950 schools in the state are administering these weekly tests to about 300,000 students, teachers and staff.

With pool testing, technicians take all of the samples out of the tube and then combine them into a pool and run a single test to determine whether the pool is positive or negative for coronavirus. If a pool test comes back negative, then everyone in that group is presumed to be negative. If it comes back positive, then every person in the group is re-tested.

pool covid-19 testing
Pool COVID-19 testing at the Nock-Molin Middle School in Newburyport. (WBZ-TV)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is paying for the first six-to-eight weeks of testing while the program starts up. Schools and districts will then be able to buy more tests later.

"There are hundreds of school districts and schools, at this point, and hundreds of thousands of kids and staff who are currently doing this and we have the resources and the capability to do this for pretty much everybody," Baker said. "I think folks are finding this to be a really positive element in their overall surveillance and safety programs."

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