Here’s how organizations can use testing to make informed public health decisions

March 29 2022

As mask mandates start to fall away in communities across the nation, staying connected to the Concentric testing program can help give your community or organization the information it needs to make informed public health decisions. Testing doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” decision, and we are committed to working with you as you determine the right fit for your needs during this time.

COVID-19 mitigation measures, like masks and social distancing, are ramping down across the country. But the pandemic isn’t over—in fact, cases are still rising internationally. Testing is still one of the best ways to keep ourselves informed and help catch new outbreaks or variants before they spread. 

Regular, routine testing is like a weather report for your community—it helps provide data so school leaders can make informed decisions about the health of students and staff, and it can be helpful to know when it’s time to ramp up public health mitigation measures again, such as in the case of a new variant or surge of COVID-19. It’s like checking the weather in the morning. Instead of asking, “Is there a significant chance of rain? Do I need an umbrella?” In the case of testing, we can get an idea about questions like, “Are there positive cases in my community? Do I need to test students more extensively or frequently? Do I need to consider other measures like masking or distancing to keep everyone safe and mitigate the spread?”

We’ve seen how successful testing can be at helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and providing school leaders and communities with the information needed to make informed public health decisions. During the recent Omicron surge this winter, Concentric partners in Maryland, Maine, and California reported that regular testing was an important factor in deciding if it was the right time to close a few classrooms (and which to leave open), and when to reopen fully after just a couple of days.

COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory virus that circulates in schools. Testing can also help your community distinguish between COVID-19 and a regular cold or flu—it gives you the confidence about knowing the difference. The pandemic isn’t over. Testing can help communities be ready for new variants and outbreaks, and helps allow us to breathe easier in the meantime.  

If your testing regimen, as it’s currently set up, isn’t quite serving the needs of your community as transmission levels of COVID-19 decrease, you can design a customized plan using our testing program that will best serve your organization.

Some options include: 

  • Moving your school or district to a less frequent testing schedule. Schools are not required to test with a specific frequency, such as every week – they can choose to move to a biweekly or monthly schedule, for instance. Other models could include sampling students at random, or staying on the portal for event-specific testing, such as after school breaks, or in conjunction with field trips and away games. 
  • Changing the test modality. If you’re currently using individual PCR or rapid antigen testing, we can help you transition to FDA-authorized pooled testing for example. 
  • New innovations! We are currently piloting some of the latest sampling technologies (such as wastewater monitoring). If you’re interested in working with us on piloting new, passive monitoring technologies, please let us know! 
  • In line with CDC’s new Community Levels guidance, you can decide to change your program to “low maintenance” mode if you’re seeing low levels of transmission. 

Testing is a signal, like a traffic light. Like a green light, testing can help provide confidence that it’s safe to move forward. But you don’t want to miss it when the light turns yellow or red! Routine testing can help keep your community informed about when the signal changes.