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There will be no formal surveillance testing program for Teton County students, at least as of right now.

That’s because the state of Wyoming has made at-home testing available to all Wyomingites for free, Superintendent Gillian Chapman said at Friday’s community update. Gov. Mark Gordon recently announced that the state would cover the costs for at-home saliva tests from Vault Health.

They are “an effective way for students and staff to opt in for free surveillance testing,” Chapman said. “I’ve done it myself. It’s very fast, it’s easy. I highly recommend it.”

Surveillance testing as it happens through the Teton County Health Department is a randomized effort. Businesses opt in, and some of their employees are selected each week to be tested.

That is meant to catch asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, so relying on families using the Vault tests won’t likely serve quite the same purpose. But it will allow parents to test their kids if they’ve had an exposure or if they travel out of Teton County and want to make sure they didn’t catch the virus in the process.

It will also ease the burden on district staff, who are already working an increased amount to limit viral transmission at school.

“The best part of that is it doesn’t require a significant lift for our school nurses or school staff who are already overtaxed,” Chapman said Friday.

Testing students is a crucial part of containing in-school transmission, which so far has not been detected. Though the Wyoming Department of Health recently changed its quarantine guidelines for in-school exposures based on the lack of transmission seen so far this school year, public health officials still want kids to be tested after an exposure, even if they aren’t asked to quarantine.

“It’s still a great chance to test if these events occur in your classroom or a school transportation setting,” public health coordinator Rachael Wheeler said. “The Health Department will notify parents, and the Health Department will assist in scheduling testing for these children.”

The local test for such an exposure is a cheek swab and won’t cost parents any money, she said.

To get your free test from Vault, go to VaultHealth.com and click on the COVID-19 test tab. Go through the checkout process, and when you select Wyoming as your state, the test price, which is $150, should be reduced to $0.

If and when you use the Vault test, someone watches you through the process over Zoom, then the shipping to the lab is prepaid. Results come back in two to three days.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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