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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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The SDSU School of Public Health is involved in three major COVID-19 testing and tracing projects. The SDSU School of Public Health is involved in three major COVID-19 testing and tracing projects.
 


Project Takes COVID-19 Testing Into Middle School Homes

The SDSU School of Public Health has been awarded a $300,000 grant to enable families in a predominantly Latinx community to self-test.
By Jeff Ristine
 

“We need to step up and protect our students so that they can focus on their schooling.”

The San Diego State University School of Public Health will distribute 6,000 home testing kits for COVID-19 at a San Diego County middle school this summer, a pilot program to determine whether self-testing of students’ high-risk family members can help keep schools safe.

Coming as the nation’s schools prepare to return to in-person instruction, the tests will be distributed to families at an as-yet undesignated school in the Sweetwater Union High School District. (July 14 update: The school has been identified as Southwest Middle School.)

“The idea is to catch it before it transmits to the middle schooler or before that middle schooler comes to campus,” said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of the Institute for Public Health at SDSU. “We need to step up and protect our students so that they can focus on their schooling.”

The $300,000, one-year project is one of eight grants awarded by the RADx-UP Rapid Research Pilot Program through the Coordination and Data Collection Center at Duke University and part of a $1.4 billion initiative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Targets of the SDSU study are unvaccinated or otherwise high-risk individuals living with middle school-age children. Nasal swabs tests will be self-administered, inserted into a liquid, then placed on a test strip, photographed and then analyzed though a smartphone or tablet computer app. Plans call for testing about once every two weeks.

Investigators will follow up with anyone who tests positive to confirm the results and link them to resources so they can safely isolate at home.

Called “Communities Fighting COVID @Home,” one aim of the pilot project will be to see “what we need to tweak along the way in order to make testing as easy as humanly possible” for families, McDaniels-Davidson said.

“We’re trying to see what it’ll take to get family members to take these tests so we can keep COVID out of the schools,” she added. “We want schools to reopen but we want to do it safely as they return to full capacity.”

At-risk communities

The Sweetwater Union High School District, which includes some of San Diego County’s most heavily Latinx communities, returns to in-person classes on July 21.

“This is a great opportunity to work with partners such as SDSU to make our schools as safe as possible by expanding convenient tasting options to their families,” said Vernon Moore, Chief of Educational Equity and Support Services for the district.

“While we are strongly encouraging all SUHSD families to be vaccinated, we appreciate the opportunity to provide testing as another protective layer for students who do not make that choice or who have other high-risk scenarios.”

In addition to the at-home tests, SDSU will conduct surveys in schools to learn more about the confidence and trust of parents and guardians.

The RADx-UP grant follows two other ongoing “Communities Fighting COVID!” projects at the School of Public Health focused on COVID-19 in the community:

  •  A $5 million NIH grant to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing and reduce testing disparities throughout the San Diego County community.
  • The Contract Tracing Project with the County of Health and Human Services Agency provides language-specific contract tracing services in Spanish-, Arabic- and Tagalog-speaking communities and the African-American community.

Co-principal investigator on the new project is Susan Kiene, a professor of global health and associate director for research in the School of Public Health. Co-investigators are Hala Madanat, interim vice president for research at SDSU, and Eyal Oren, interim director of the School of Public Health.

This article has been updated to include the name of the school where the pilot program will be conducted.