MUFSD Succeeds in its Response to Holiday Break

Maia Glazer, H&W Page Director

Mamaroneck High School and the rest of the district’s foremost priority this year has been to keep its students safe and to stop the spread of COVID-19— whether that means keeping the schools open, or not. MUFSD uses guidance from NY State Governor Cuomo, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the NY State Education and Health Departments for all its planning decisions. In an effort to prevent a spike of district COVID-19 cases following the Holiday break, as experienced after Thanksgiving, MUFSD chose to administer the SalivaClear™ test to its 900+ staff and 4,500+ students. As stated on the Mamaroneck Schools website, “The goal with testing is to be able to identify individuals who are infected and enable them to take precautions immediately to protect themselves, their friends and families, and the broader community.” This testing is the first of its kind for Mamaroneck, but it may not be its last. 

MUFSD partnered with Mirimus Clinical Labs in Brooklyn “because their testing is affordable and accurate, with rapid turn-around time,” stated Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps in an email that was sent to all MUFSD students and parents. Mirimus Clinical Labs is primarily involved with new genome editing technologies, especially that of RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9. They orchestrated the at-home saliva-based self-administered COVID-19 RT-PCR testing launched from January 5 through 8; results were then verified by the end of that weekend. Self-test kits were distributed to each registered student at any of the four elementary schools and then dropped off again once used. There was also the opportunity for on-site testing. Mirimus’ same testing method was used to ensure safety at “Bubbleville,” the NCAA Division I Basketball Event at Mohegan Sun. On a much larger scale, a similar spit-based test, SalivaDirect from the Yale School of Public Health was used to test the NBA. An article by Scientific American highlights its flexibility, absence of the uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab, and its simplification or removal of the RNA extraction step.

At Mamaroneck High School, the spit-based testing was complementary to the fully-remote learning schedule that lasted the week of Tuesday, January 5, 2021. By the following week, “there had not been one case of person to person transmission of COVID-19,” Principal Elizabeth Clain stated in an email. This was attributed to the daily temperature checks, completion of the pre-arrival health screening form, wearing masks, social distancing, and constant cleaning. On January 15, one positive case was reported along with the enactment of a new Department of Health regulation that only those within six feet of the positive case (for 20+ minutes) have to quarantine for ten days. This has led to teachers creating seating charts that are to be cross-referenced in the case of a positive student. Three days later, three more students at MHS tested positive along with two more on January 25th. However, all of these cases have been confirmed by Clain to be the result of out-of-school transmission. 

Mirimus’ SalivaClear™test has been proven to be reliable for MUFSD and is considered to be as dependable as nasal swab tests. For the upcoming Spring break and the rest of the school year, it will be interesting to see what MUFSD does as they now have spit-based testing in the back pocket. The administration has yet to specify any plans for future testing.