SOMERSET, Texas – A new nonprofit is conducting mass testing for COVID-19 at the Somerset Independent School District to get students back into the classroom safely.
Graham Weston, co-founder of Community Labs, says getting people tested quickly and often is how the nonprofit plans to help local health officials ensure a safe learning environment for students.
“Speed is everything on testing. If you don’t get a result quickly, it’s almost worthless,” Weston said. “So that’s why we created a lab to be able to have enough capacity and speed that we could really send kids back to school.”
Community Labs utilizes PCR tests, considered the gold standard among FDA-approved tests. The nonprofit said it can provide results from its nasal swab tests in 24 hours. Weston said they have a capacity of 12,000 tests a day.
Additionally, Weston and other members of the nonprofit developed a program to help identify people who may be silently spreading the virus.
Somerset ISD received the testing service for free as part of the nonprofit’s pilot program.
Last week, more than 200 Somerset High School students and staff members were tested for COVID-19. Testing is currently being held weekly.
Somerset ISD Superintendent Saul Hinojosa said testing is only mandatory for students participating in extracurricular activities and are required to travel outside of the school.
“We did have one positive, which shows that we were able to identify this individual, inform the parent and ask them to quarantine,” Hinojosa said. “It’s only mandatory for any students who participate in extracurricular activities being that they travel.”
Hinojosa said around 1,600 of the 4,100 students enrolled at Somerset ISD are back in classrooms for in-person learning.
Tyler Denton -- who plays football, basketball and tennis at Somerset High School -- was tested Wednesday and said he feels better knowing he is is not getting anyone else sick.
“I just feel much better about myself knowing that I’m not getting anyone else sick,” Denton said.
Hinojosa says the district plans to provide testing to all campuses by the end of October.