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Pandemic Team Updates: Understanding Different COVID Tests & Tracking Vaccination Status

What is the difference between a rapid antigen test and a PCR test?

To answer this question, WSP contact tracer David Konefal-Shaer shared an article by Epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina. Below is a short explanation; however, you can read the full article here.

Am I infectious and therefore need to isolate? This is very different from the question that clinicians, hospitalists, and scientists want to know: Does someone have any level of COVID-19 virus in the body?

Because these are different questions, we need different tools. Rapid Antigen (Ag) tests answer the first question by detecting very high levels of virus, which turn the test positive. People are only contagious once they reach a certain threshold of virus. So, by default, catching high levels of virus will result in capturing whether someone is contagious.

On the other hand, PCR tests are very effective at detecting the presence of very low levels of a virus. Importantly, the threshold in which PCR tests can detect virus is below the level of contagiousness. So, people can stay positive with a PCR for a long time (some documented cases show up to 60 days) but not be contagious. With an Ag test, though, that person would be positive for a much shorter duration and, more or less, while they are contagious.”

Please note: WSP's Health & Safety Plan states that if you are fully vaccinated and if you’ve had close contactwith someone who has COVID-19, you should quarantine, get tested 3–5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative at which time you can return to school provided you are symptom free. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.


How does WSP know if my child is vaccinated?

This information comes to us through a few avenues:

  1. Our nurse (through PPS) is the medical professional who closely analyzes the health forms that families submit to the school. By reviewing the student immunization forms on file, she determines who is vaccinated.

  2. We ask parents directly to provide a photo of their vaccine card to the front office or to our contact tracer.

  3. Our nurse accesses student records in the Public Health Information System Immunization Module.

Our school nurse, Terri Rapp, has taken these past few weeks to compile health records and vaccinations while completing health checks on the students as well. She most recently went through a second time to compile the list of Grades students who received the COVID-19 vaccine. She did not compile any Early Childhood student information because many of the students do not yet qualify for vaccines.

We will be communicating more information with families in the next week or two about how we can continue to collect this important information.

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