Testing FAQs

Nasal swabs are safe! Get all your nasal swab and ethylene oxide questions answered in this helpful DOH fact sheet.

Why is our school community participating in this COVID-19 testing program?

School-based testing and other safety measures are effective tools for allowing schools to open and stay open safely for full-time, in-person learning.

By participating in Learn to Return, school communities are empowered to get back to school full-time with confidence. Testing programs are critical for identifying cases of COVID-19 in our schools, preventing the spread of the disease, and keeping students, teachers, and other staff in school. We believe that safe, full-time, in-person learning is a top priority for our communities – it’s better for students, it’s better for teachers, and it helps parents and caregivers get back to work.

Vaccines are essential, but it will take time to reach vaccination rates that will effectively limit transmission so that other safety strategies are no longer necessary.

Who performs the COVID-19 test?

In most cases, samples can be self-collected by the individual being tested under the supervision of a test observer. Test observers do not need to be healthcare professionals and do not require formal certification. Testing vendors provide training materials for staff or other volunteers who will serve in this capacity. Trained testing observers oversee the sample collection process and, in the case of rapid antigen tests, resulting.

For rapid antigen tests that return results onsite, these test observers are also trained to read and report the results in the appropriate online system. This role may be filled by a nurse or trained staff and volunteers.

For the Everlywell shallow nasal swab, only students aged 16 or older can self-administer the test. A healthcare professional is required for those 15 or younger. 

All tests available through Learn to Return use a shallow nasal swab to collect samples. This is not the dreaded “brain tickler” or nasopharyngeal swab. The shallow nasal swab only enters half-an-inch into each nostril, makes several rotations, and is placed, swab-side down, in the collection tube.

Refer to our Menu of Tests page to learn more about each vendor and requirements for sample collection and observation.

What does a test observer do?

The test observer’s primary function is to make sure an accurate sample is collected so there is not a need to retest. When using a Curative test, for example, observers also confirm that the label on the sample is properly scanned (using a barcode scanner provided by Curative) and logged into Curative’s results tracking system.

Test observers do not need to be healthcare professionals and can be trained using online tutorials provided by the testing vendor. There is no formal certification, but some districts may have test observers sign a document acknowledging that they viewed the training videos. 

Who pays for the test? Do students and staff need insurance?
Testing is free, there is no out-of-pocket cost or co-pay. 

The Washington State Department of Health covers costs for diagnostic and screening tests with federal funds. This funding will continue through July 2022. 

For tests performed by Curative, you will be asked to provide insurance information if you have it, and  your insurance will be billed directly. You will not receive a bill for your test. Some individuals tested may receive an Explanation of Benefits statement from their insurer indicating a remaining balance, but they will never receive a bill from Curative for the testing.

If you do not have health insurance, you may provide a photo of your government-issued I.D. This information will allow Curative to bill the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which is covering testing not covered by insurance. However, if you do have health insurance, we ask that you use it.

If you do not provide insurance or a government I.D., you can still get tested at no charge!  The Washington Department of Health will cover the cost. 
If the testing is free, why is insurance billed?

COVID-19 testing is free to your school community, but that doesn’t mean the lab is processing it for free. Some labs can bill insurance, which means we can stretch our public funds to serve more people. But if a patient doesn’t have insurance, or refuses to give it, they can still get tested.

What happens when a member of the school community tests positive? What about a negative test result?

Teachers, staff, guardians, and students who show any symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 will be referred to a testing site specific to your school district. Your results will be entered into the appropriate tracking system. 

If the test is positive and the individual has not had any COVID-19 symptoms, they will be asked to isolate for at least 10 days from the date of their positive test and until any new symptoms have resolved. If the individual tests negative and has not been exposed to someone with a positive COVID-19 test, they will be asked to isolate for at least 24 hours and until symptoms have improved. Please refer to the DOH’s guidance for more details. 

As usual, every positive case will be reported to the local health jurisdiction for case investigation and contact tracing to protect the community and prevent further transmission. Your school district and local health jurisdiction may be able to refer you to resources that can help with paid sick leave, temporary unemployment insurance, grocery delivery, mental health support, and other services during isolation and quarantine. 

Check Care Connect WA for more information.

By staying at home and avoiding outside contact during the temporary isolation and quarantine period, you will be doing you part to protect our community and keep our schools open.

What data will schools and health departments be collecting? How is my privacy protected?

All health information is kept private and is protected by federal HIPAA rules. 

School administrative staff collect data for daily symptom screening and exposure checks using either a paper form or an automated option (such as a smartphone app or online platform). 

When referring someone for testing, school staff will provide a link to the testing vendor’s registration portal. Curative, for instance, captures demographic data, parental/guardian consent, and insurance information with their online registration system. Curative provides summary reports to your school district. These reports show the aggregate number of testing referrals, the percentage of tests completed, the positivity rate, and the total number of positives.

A few trusted administrators and staff at your school district (likely the superintendent) will be alerted if there is a positive test result. One or two staff members within the district will then lookup individual test results and initiate outbreak mitigation. They will help with contract tracing to prevent further transmission and protect the other teachers, staff, students, and families within the school community. All health information is kept private and is protected by federal HIPAA rules. 

The school district must have a signed HIPAA Authorization Form for Minors on file to implement the testing program. This step is required since the school will receive personal health information (PHI) about minors (students) from the laboratory.

What is a CLIA waiver, and does our school require one for conducting these tests?

CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) waivers are required when a diagnosis is performed and interpreted onsite. Schools providing rapid antigen tests need a CLIA waiver since results are provided onsite within 15-20 minutes of sample collection. 

When collecting samples to send to a central lab for processing — as with the Curative and Everlywell tests — the school or testing site does not need a CLIA waiver.

Who’s paying for this? Where does the money come from?

The Washington State Department of Health covers costs for diagnostic and screening tests with federal funds. This funding will continue through July 2022.

Governor Inslee announces expansion of Learn to Return funding to support screening tests for Washington schools.  

How does a diagnostic testing program work?

Teachers, staff, students and members of their households who show any symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 will be referred to a testing site (potentially on school grounds). This site will serve your school or school district specifically, and you’ll be able to access free testing on the day you are referred.  

If someone tests positive, they will be asked to isolate for at least 10 days and until symptoms have resolved. If someone tests negative, they will be asked to isolate until symptoms have improved. 

Samples are collected via a shallow nasal swab for all tests available through Learn to Return. Shallow nasal swabs are not the dreaded “brain tickler” or nasopharyngeal swab. 

The swab only enters half-an-inch into each nostril, makes three rotations, and is placed, swab-side down, in the collection tube.

You can learn more about the types of tests and testing methods that are available through Learn to Return here.  And you can watch a demonstration of a shallow nasal swab here.

Menu of Tests

Explore the range of testing solutions offered through L2R!

What is the difference between diagnostic testing and screening?

Students or staff who are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 can take a test using a shallow nasal swab before leaving school grounds. While entirely voluntary, this approach shortens the length of time between testing and results while reducing the burden on families to arrange for a test.  

Students and staff voluntarily opt-in to periodic, asymptomatic testing to identify infected individuals so that measures can be taken to prevent those individuals from infecting others. For a screening strategy to be effective, tests need to be conducted frequently (at least once per week) and require high participation.

Screening may be particularly helpful in situations in which other strategies like masking and distancing are difficult to implement (i.e. some special education classes and athletics), in locations where asymptomatic spread is higher (such as in elementary schools), and in areas with larger proportions of unvaccinated people.

For schools just beginning to incorporate a COVID-19 testing program, Learn to Return recommends starting by ensuring same-day diagnostic testing for anyone who has symptoms or may have been exposed. 

Screening may be particularly helpful in situations in which other strategies like masking and distancing are difficult to implement.

 

Resources and Information

Menu of Tests

A quick guide to available L2R testing options

Vaccine FAQs

Learn more about the vaccines & why you should get vaccinated

Vaccine & Testing FAQs

Learn why vaccines & testing are the dynamic duo that will help schools open and stay open this fall with confidence