SD’s Busiest COVID-19 Testing Center is at CVESD

SD’s Busiest COVID-19 Testing Center is at CVESD
Posted on 09/08/2021
COVID Testing

At times, the line of students and staff members can stretch around the building. They are lined up to be tested for COVID-19. And this particular testing center, located at the Education Service and Support Center, more commonly known as the District office, has been one of the busiest in all of San Diego County.

It can make for exhausting days for the COVID-19 testing staff, such as emergency medical technician Sebastian Negrete. The center has been operating nearly non-stop since testing began July 19, prior to the start of the new school year. The experience has also been rewarding, Negrete said.

“This is impacting me in more ways than I can think of,” Negrete said. “I go home every day thinking I'm making a difference for the kids. I’m really motivated to make sure that these kids stay in school, make sure that they are healthy. At times, I may get tired, but I remember why we're here and what I'm doing. I love it ‘cause at the end of the day I know that that is safe, the parents know he’s safe and we’re providing the best service we can for the District.”

The state urges schools to test students and staff regularly, and encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. In the Chula Vista Elementary School District, where the  majority of students are under the age of 12, and not eligible for existing vaccines, “Testing, Tracing, Isolation and Vaccination” are essential strategies to keeping schools open, said Sherry Colgan-Stone, Ed.D., the District’s emergency preparedness and security manager. 

“We set up the testing program to provide both antigen and PCR testing for our students and staff members,” said Colgan-Stone. “It has been very successful. We are testing sometimes up to 700 people a day, which is quite astonishing. We're probably one of the largest testing locations right now in San Diego County with that number and volume.”

The team administering the COVID-19 tests are contracted staff from Maxim Healthcare Staff Services, with additional support from City of Chula Vista Fire Department.

“Our testing team has been amazing,” Colgan-Stone said. “We've been able to catch positive cases, which is the most important piece of the testing program. Of course, we want to identify who they are, get them off campus so that they don't spread the virus to others. Then, also identify their close contacts and start them on the quarantine process so that that we can mitigate that spread of the virus.”

The overwhelming majority of parents have been appreciative of the service.

Main Testing“The process was super smooth,” said one parent who brought her son for testing. “Everything was laid out very clearly, the line, everyone was attentive to us both outside and inside. I think the fact that it's accessible to us is really important instead of having to call the primary for the appointment go get tested--that's a hassle. That's what we did before. So this being available to the students, it helps the situation.”

“It’s extremely important to have the test. We want to make sure that both staff and students are in the classroom where they belong, and the District has this very conveniently located at the” Education Service and Support Center, said Rosi Martinez, president of Chula Vista Educators. “I know that they are also looking at hosting the testing at several school sites to make it more available and even more convenient. Not only do we need to prioritize safety, but we need to make sure that staff and students are in the classroom and so this allows us to go through the process and get back into our work more quickly.”

Because the District offers such robust testing, positive cases are a statistical certainty. However, the number of positive cases involving students and staff represents a small fraction of CVESD’s nearly 29,000 student enrollment. Most of these cases involved community spread—meaning a staff member or student was in close contact or had a positive test result from someone at home being sick.

This trend is in alignment with what Dr. Naomi Bardach, the State Lead for the Safe Schools for All Team, shared at a state webinar for California school districts. Most children contract the disease from a close relative, not from fellow students or school personnel. However, there are things that adults can do to reduce the spread of the virus among children. “Vaccines for adults are key to prevention in kids,” Dr. Bardach said.

COVID-19 tests are only one part of a broader safety plan. Vaccinations, social distancing, ventilation, regular cleaning, contact tracing and masking are also important ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Schools are still one of the safest places to be anywhere in the community,” said Oscar Esquivel, interim superintendent. “The safety measures in place at our schools are specifically designed to keep students and staff safe. Keep in mind that grocery stores, big box retail stores, athletic events, concerts, backyard gatherings—none of these places have all of the measures in place that our schools do.”

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