Superior + Douglas County Schools Suffer COVID-Test Kit Shortage
At a time that they're needed most - local schools in northwestern Wisconsin are suffering from a shortage of available COVID-19 tests. Rapid tests - the kind needed to make the sort of quick decisions these districts need - are in short supply in Douglas County - including Superior.
To accommodate the Wisconsin Department of Health Service's "Keeping Kids Safe and In School" initiative, districts need a large supply of testing kits. With a multi-prong approach, that initiative was developed to "keep...children in the classroom as the omicron variant of COVID-19 surges through Wisconsin".
As omicron-variant cases rise, they seem to be affecting younger children the worst. According to the health department details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [ paywall]:
"Children under 18 years old continue to represent the highest number of new confirmed cases. This age group also represents more than one-fifth of new confirmed cases since the end of August."
With surging cases in these school districts, administrators are dependent upon rapid tests to get an accurate head count on the number of cases; that head count is used to determine what further decisions need to be made (i.e. shifting to virtual, closing, classroom changes, etc)
Most districts in Douglas County have established in-house COVID-19 testing clinics; those testing clinics are dependent on the rapid test kits. "As of this week, none of (the schools in Maple, Solon Springs, and Superior) has rapid (antigen) tests available. The only option (then) is the more accurate PCR test, which provides results in a few days instead of a few minutes".
Those PCR tests - while accurate - aren't quick. In fact - for some school districts - "it's taking up to a week for PCR test results to come back. That translates into less time in the classroom".
The problem has no end in sight, either. Most of the schools in Douglas County that have run out of the rapid COVID-19 tests have "no information on when they would once again be an option".