The A, B, Cs of Testing: What Effective COVID-19 Prevention Should Look Like in Schools

Mehdi Maghsoodnia
6 min readOct 2, 2020

Last month, as summer subsided, the school year started up and institutions all across the country finally opened their doors… and closed them, and opened them again. With increases in COVID-19 cases, new threats of lawsuits from teachers unions loom large. Clearly, one subject that has not been on the curriculum this semester is effective COVID-19 testing. Though there are as many testing ideas out there, there are few agreed best practices for how to deploy effective testing programs at scale. Countless haphazard plans have forced schools to re-evaluate their initial target goals time and time again.

Los Angeles — which touts the nation’s second-largest school district — hoped to consistently test its 600,000 students and 75,000 employees. We know the LA program is expensive, but is it effective? Looking around the school testing landscape, I see far too many exorbitant testing programs that, still, are not preventing school closure. An effective testing program at scale takes more than just deploying a test across your institution. As the CEO of a technology company that provides testing as a service to many healthcare leaders and partners, I want to share observations across the thousands of test programs we have deployed in the U.S. As the father of school-age children, I feel even more compelled to do so.

Admiral Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health who is overseeing federal testing efforts, says that the Center for Disease Control “does not recommend routine baseline testing of all students or all employees.” I could not disagree more strongly. I believe that regular, widespread testing is the foundation of any program that would prevent the spread of COVID-19 across schools — and local governments must invest in such programs. So what are the three pillars of an effective testing program?

  1. Detection: Regular testing and analytics
  2. Isolation: A working contact tracing and social isolation program
  3. Reporting: Real-time reporting of COVID protocol violation

In order to deploy a working program on your campus, you need a COVID team that is given authority to execute the program. This team has to establish all of the required pillars of a…