Testing Teachers, Sanitizing Desks: Cape Shares Advice on Reopening Schools | WCAI

Testing Teachers, Sanitizing Desks: Cape Shares Advice on Reopening Schools

Aug 21, 2020

As schools work to make their reopening plans a reality by mid September, officials on Cape Cod are offering very specific health recommendations — down to how to test employees for COVID-19 and what cleaning products to use.

They shared ideas and advice in a video briefing Thursday hosted by the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force.

Sandwich Fire Chief John “JJ” Burke detailed the town’s tentative plan to test school employees for COVID-19 starting next week.

He said because nasal testing supplies are limited, employees will first get a blood test that shows late-stage COVID-19 or a previous infection. 

“It’s a voluntary process, and anybody that tests other than negative with our serology test will get a nasal PCR to confirm no COVID,” he said.

PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction. It’s considered the gold standard of COVID-19 testing.

He said Sandwich has been using the same testing process on municipal employees for months. It allows the town to speak to employees one-on-one and reaffirm social distancing, mask wearing, and decontamination.

“And that’s an added value,” he said.

Hyannis Fire Chief Peter Burke reviewed the options school districts have for disinfecting surfaces. He said chlorine products, and particularly chlorine dioxide, work well and are relatively safe.

Some fire departments have tried using high-volume, low-pressure sprayers to spread disinfectant. But Burke recommended against it.

“One of the things that was learned from that was, we were spraying large quantities of disinfectant, far more than was necessary,” he said. “They all have some type of corrosive function to that. [It] ended up really damaging equipment.”

He said air foggers provide a “feel-good opportunity” but are not necessarily based on science.

Jennifer Frates, chief procurement officer for Barnstable County, gave tips about ordering personal protective equipment and recommended that districts work together to get volume discounts.

The full presentation is available at https://www.reopeningcapecod.org/schools.