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.

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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.