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J Clin Microbiol DOI:10.1128/JCM.01123-21

Implementation of SARS-CoV2 Screening in K-12 Schools Using In-School Pooled Molecular Testing and Deconvolution by Rapid Antigen Test.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsPollock, NR, Berlin, D, Smole, SC, Madoff, LC, Brown, C, Henderson, K, Larsen, E, Hay, J, Gabriel, S, Gawande, AA, Lennon, NJ
JournalJ Clin Microbiol
Date Published2021 08 18
KeywordsCOVID-19, Humans, Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, RNA, Viral, SARS-CoV-2, Schools, Specimen Handling

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) testing is one component of a multilayered mitigation strategy to enable safe in-person school attendance for the K-12 school population. However, costs, logistics, and uncertainty about effectiveness are potential barriers to implementation. We assessed early data from the Massachusetts K-12 public school pooled SARS-CoV2 testing program, which incorporates two novel design elements: in-school "pod pooling" for assembling pools of dry anterior nasal swabs from 5 to 10 individuals and positive pool deconvolution using the BinaxNOW antigen rapid diagnostic test (Ag RDT), to assess the operational and analytical feasibility of this approach. Over 3 months, 187,597 individual swabs were tested across 39,297 pools from 738 schools. The pool positivity rate was 0.8%; 98.2% of pools tested negative and 0.2% inconclusive, and 0.8% of pools submitted could not be tested. Of 310 positive pools, 70.6% had an N1 or N2 probe cycle threshold () value of ≤30. In reflex testing (performed on specimens newly collected from members of the positive pool), 92.5% of fully deconvoluted pools with an N1 or N2 target of ≤30 identified a positive individual using the BinaxNOW test performed 1 to 3 days later. However, of 124 positive pools with full reflex testing data available for analysis, 32 (25.8%) of BinaxNOW pool deconvolution testing attempts did not identify a positive individual, requiring additional reflex testing. With sufficient staffing support and low pool positivity rates, pooled sample collection and reflex testing were feasible for schools. These early program findings confirm that screening for K-12 students and staff is achievable at scale with a scheme that incorporates in-school pooling, primary testing by reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR), and Ag RDT reflex/deconvolution testing.


Alternate JournalJ Clin Microbiol
PubMed ID34191585
PubMed Central IDPMC8373013
Grant List / / Commonwealth of Massachusetts /
RADx ATP / / HHS | NIH | National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) /
NU50CK000518-02-06 / / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) /