California Will Start Sequencing Positive COVID Tests Taken at Schools

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As California continues to try and stay ahead of the newest COVID variant, it’s about to introduce a new strategy.

The state is going to start sequencing positive COVID tests taken at schools so they know what strain of the virus kids are getting and parents in Santa Clara say they're happy to hear it.

“I want to know if the kids bring the virus to the house or not,” said parent Milbia Salguero.

Schools that will have their positive samples sequenced include those in the Santa Clara Unified School District as well as Oakland, Menlo Park, Mountain View-Whisman and San Mateo.

“It was not necessarily induced in response to omicron, but more of a growing understanding that from the initial alpha variants, to the emergence of delta and now omicron that this virus is changing,” said Renee Wegrzyn, vice president of business development at Concentric. 

Concentric is one of the companies processing COVID tests for the participating schools.

They say the sequencing of K-12 pools will start in a couple of weeks at the request of the California department of Public Health.

“Schools have really been the program that are testing every single week, so you have a population you can look at over time which is really important,” said Wegrzyn.

Concentric is currently testing 80,000 students per week in California.

“With that testing in schools it allows you to pick up cases that would otherwise be missed and then we can figure out from sequencing what are the variants that are present,” said Wegrzyn. 

Currently the state of California is sequencing only about 25% of all positive COVID tests.

Santa Clara County said they’re sequencing between 25 and 40% of their tests.

With this new initiative, that number will jump, meaning more data - which experts say is key to tracking and managing COVID outbreaks.

Many more schools are expected to start participating in the testing and sequencing program, including several in Okland.

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