Natchez Adams School District approves contract for COVID testing on students

Published 12:15 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2021

NATCHEZ — On Tuesday, Natchez-Adams School District officials unanimously approved a contract to begin COVID-19 testing on kindergarten through 8th-grade students at school.

The testing is a proactive measure to prevent virus outbreaks in classrooms, school officials said.

The district is contracting with Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology company in Boston. A Ginkgo spokesman told school officials Tuesday that the company anticipates the COVID tests will be paid for in-full from federal funds, which means the tests will cost the school district nothing.

U.S. Congress set aside a total of $67.8 billion in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to support the pandemic response in schools, including testing.

With the Ginkgo testing system, students use their own nasal swab to collect a specimen and place the swab in a collection tube “booger side down” to be shipped off to a lab, the company website states.

The test results are pooled together so the company does not collect individual health data from students. However, the schools are informed if a classroom tests COVID-19 positive so they can take any needed action.

“We’ll return results directly to your school,” Ginkgo’s website states. “If a result is negative, it’s unlikely anyone is infected and students continue learning uninterrupted. If the result is positive, someone in the classroom is most likely sick; you can then follow up to stop an outbreak.”

School officials said parents will receive a one-page consent form from their child’s school before any COVID-19 testing is done.