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Hillsborough, Pasco schools announce plans for coronavirus testing

Hillsborough employees must be insured through the district to qualify. The Pasco program is for students as well as staff.

TAMPA — Minutes into the first day of in-person classes, Hillsborough superintendent Addison Davis announced a plan to offer rapid-testing for COVID-19 to staff at the district’s more than 200 schools.

“Our teachers and employees are the heart and soul of Hillsborough County Public Schools, and their safety is paramount to not only this administration, but to our entire community,” Davis said in a statement.

The district will work with Tampa General Hospital to make theses tests available in what Davis described as a first-of-its-kind partnership.

“Our employees will now have access to COVID-19 expedited testing to ensure they have the information they need, faster, should they come into contact with a potential carrier of the virus or display symptoms,” Davis wrote.

“We have a responsibility to provide a safe back-to-school experience for our staff, while reducing the spread of this challenging virus, and this opportunity ultimately provides a step towards normalcy for the Tampa Bay area.”

The Pasco County school district also has plans to roll out a rapid testing program for its students and staff, deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said Monday.

Three of the district’s health and wellness centers — one each in west, central and east Pasco — will serve as testing sites, collecting samples and preparing them for the lab. The Health Department will pick up the swabs and take them in for analysis, then deliver the results as appropriate, Gadd said.

He anticipated the sites will begin operations the Friday after Labor Day, running three hours daily to start and expanding if needed. The Pasco district also is hiring a new occupational nurse health specialist to coordinate its coronavirus activity, while also overseeing employee health issues. The School Board meets Tuesday, when it is expected to review these items.

In Hillsborough, any employee experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or who may have been exposed to the virus, is encouraged to contact their school, which will have a designated point person, or COVID-19 lead. That person will schedule the test, which should produce a result within 72 hours.

To be eligible, the employee must be enrolled in a district insurance plan through Humana. The test will be arranged at one of Tampa General’s Fast Track urgent care clinics in Brandon, Riverview, Carrollwood, Tyrone, Westchase, South Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Sun City Center, Seminole or two downtown Tampa locations.

Humana has waived the out-of-pocket costs for its members when services are COVID-19 related, the district said.

Employees are being asked to sign a release allowing the COVID-19 result to be shared with the school district.