ResourcePath and Arlington Public Schools are launching daily rapid antigen testing program for student athletes. Participation in athletics and other group activities is very important to both mental and physical health. Student athletes are at higher than average risk for contracting COVID-19 because of lack of distancing and non-universal mask requirements. In the state of Michigan, high school athlete testing became mandatory after the winter sports season contributed to spread of the virus. Outdoor sports are lower risk than indoor sports. Professionals sports perform daily testing in order to preserve competition, i.e. prevent person-to-person spread within a team. With daily rapid testing we can improve detection of asymptomatic but highly contagious individuals.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What kind of test is used?
The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Abbott BINAX-Now rapid antigen cards free of charge. This test uses a self-administered nasal swab under the guidance of ResourcePath staff. Results are available in about 15 minutes. An instruction video is available on YouTube. The FDA-EUA information about this test can be accessed here.
What happens with a positive test? How do we know it isn't a false positive?
There is a small rate of false positives with the rapid antigen test which can be minimized by proper handling and reading the result within the recommended time window. Trained ResourcePath staff will be responsible for all result interpretation and students/coaches will be notified immediately if a test is positive or if a test needs to be repeated for any reason.
All positive rapid antigen tests will be confirmed by RT-PCR. If a student tests positive on rapid antigen on the day of a game, ResourcePath will use its FDA approved rapid RT-PCR test to confirm to minimize the risk of an athlete missing a competition due to a false positive.
Why are we doing this test daily when other surveillance is once a week?
Great question! This testing program is a bit different than typical surveillance testing programs. Our strategy with daily testing is so that we can reduce the risk of a whole team needing to quarantine based on close contacts. With rapid antigen testing we can determine if someone is contagious or not prior to practice. With daily testing we can determine the first day a student became contagious and exclude the student from practice. Without daily testing, we would not be able to determine when someone first became contagious and as a result the entire team may have had an exposure and would potentially need to quarantine.
My child is vaccinated. Why does he/she need to test?
Another great question! The testing plan changed when our laboratory began to see very high viral loads in vaccinated individuals infected with the delta variant as well as outbreaks among vaccinated individuals in the Northern Virginia area. Unlike with previous strains, the delta variant produces a lot of virus in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. We think that vaccinated individuals can be as contagious as unvaccinated individuals when infected by this variant. Because of above reasons, vaccinated individuals should not opt out of testing as they can be the source for a team outbreak.
What is the benefit of getting vaccinated if delta variant can still infect me?
There are many very good reasons to get vaccinated. The vaccinations are effective at limiting morbidity and mortality. Some people have the misconception that younger people handle the virus fine and we should just let them get it for “herd immunity” similar to the way we used to think about chicken pox. While acute symptoms are typically mild in young people, as a pediatric pathologist I have seen COVID-19 related myocarditis and autoimmune syndrome and stroke in young people. In addition, there is this syndrome called “long-COVID” where symptoms like fatigue, difficulty thinking and planning can last for months. No one knows a good treatment for this. The best plan is prevention.
Even though the delta variant can infect vaccinated individuals, the severity of the infection appears to be reduced and the contagion period is shorter. It is likely that vaccinated individuals have a much lower risk of health complications from COVID.