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AMA ESD to distribute rapid tests to student athletes

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Superintendent Scott Reynolds on Monday talks about the COVID-19 rapid tests the district received at its central office location in Alpena.

ALPENA — The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education will make COVID-19 rapid testing available to its employees and serve as a hub to receive and distribute rapid tests to student athletes.

The board recently authorized Superintendent Scott Reynolds to sign an agreement with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the voluntary testing program.

Reynolds said the AMA ESD received nearly 1,000 rapid testing kits and has already distributed 80 of those kits to Alpena Public Schools and 40 to Alcona Community Schools to test students in their wrestling programs.

Wrestling is one of few contact sports in the state where student athletes are not required to wear masks during competition.

Alcona Community Schools Superintendent Dan O’Connor said in an email to The News said because there is so much close contact in the sport, Michigan High School Athletic Association guidance requires wrestlers to be tested prior to events.

O’Connor said in the email only athletes in the wrestling program are receiving the rapid tests at this time.

Reynolds said there are a total of 21 wrestlers participating in the sport in both districts who are eligible for the rapid tests. He said students can be tested up to three times a week.

Rapid testing was supposed to be conducted at the AMA ESD’s central office location for AMA ESD employees, but Reynolds said the Health Department agreed to conduct the testing because of waning interest from staff.

A preliminary enrollment survey, conducted before vaccines were made available to school district employees, showed 35 employees were interested in the voluntary testing.

Reynolds said he does not know how many employees received the vaccine because that information is protected by health privacy laws. However, he said many staff expressed interest in receiving or have said they already received the vaccine.

Since vaccines were administered to employees, Reynolds said only three or four employees remain interested in the rapid tests.

“It’s advantageous to have it available as another tool to mitigate COVID-19,” he said. “I believe there’s a number of community resources out there for folks to get free testing and we’re trying to explore further why folks might not be as interested in the program through us. It’s good to know that it’s here if interest increases.”

Participating in the agreement also allows the AMA ESD to receive and monitor testing supplies for schools in Alpena, Montmorency, and Alcona counties.

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