Rapid COVID-19 Tests Could Make School Re-Openings Safer, USC Study Finds

A new University of Southern California study has found that COVID-19 rapid tests could be the key to reopening schools more safely.

Video Transcript

- Well, the youngest students at LA Unified will return to classes next week, but some parents worry their children could bring the virus home without showing any symptoms.

- KCAL's Hermela Aregawi explains there's a rapid test that can help prevent that scenario.

HERMELA AREGAWI: A new USC study finds promise in COVID-19 rapid tests that researchers say can help reopen schools more safely.

NEERAJ SOOD: The promise of these tests is that they can identify people who are infectious within 15 minutes.

HERMELA AREGAWI: Dr. Neeraj Sood, Director of USC-Schaeffer Center's COVID Initiative, says the study is unique and that it looked at the accuracy of COVID-19 rapid tests particularly in school-aged children. Researchers found the tests could detect a COVID infection based on viral load and do it quickly. They say if students and teachers are tested twice a week, the rapid test could be more effective in protecting schools than the traditional PCR tests once a week, which takes more time.

NEERAJ SOOD: If you repeat test the kid, you're gonna now identify the kid as being COVID positive. So these tests are really useful in environments where you can do this repeat or serial testing so that when people become infectious, the tests can identify them.

HERMELA AREGAWI: When LAUSD begins to open schools next week, the district will be testing everyone on campus once a week using the traditional PCR test. Parents we spoke to say rapid tests twice a week would not make them feel any safer.

ALBERTA MOORE: It really wouldn't make a difference. It's not so much the testing or the amount of testing that would reassure parents.

HERMELA AREGAWI: Alberta Moore is not sending her 10th grader back to school because she says it would be too disruptive this late in the year. And she tells us it's the overall COVID case rates in the county and vaccinations that will make the difference for her family.

ALBERTA MOORE: Right now, the whole testing and checking in every day is kind of a hassle.

HERMELA AREGAWI: USC tells us they do not have a partnership with LAUSD at this time. We reached out to LAUSD to see if they are considering doing the rapid test. As of airtime, we haven't heard back. Hermela Aregawi, KCAL 9 News.