Dr Itai Pessach

by Sharon Gelbach

Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in Israel, which has created numerous technological innovations to combat COVID-19, has launched a novel pilot ‘rapid corona’ testing program., designed to keep schools open amidst the challenges of the pandemic

The director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba, Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, launched Live Safe – Studying Alongside the Coronavirus, at the Herzliya Gymnasia high school in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Nov. 8.

According to Regev-Yochay, the pilot is intended to keep schools open by making them into COVID-free “protective bubbles,” thereby easing the toll the pandemic has had on the student population and their parents, as well as the teaching staff.

The first step of the program involves screening students and staff with a serological test, which will show if they have ever had the coronavirus and are immune to contracting the disease, at least temporarily, explained Dr. Regev-Yochay. Those who are not immune, will undergo rapid antigen testing at their school once every two days to identify those who are asymptomatic, but in the early stages of the disease.

The rapid antigen testing provides results within 15 minutes. Testing will be carried out by the school nurse, other school staff as well as Magen David Adom volunteers and senior students at the school, under the supervision of Dr. Regev-Yochay and her team.

Anyone who tests positive will undergo a regular PCR test as well. Students or teachers who test positive will need to enter isolation, and the other members of their capsule will likewise need to be quarantined. All quarantined and isolated individuals will undergo a daily drive-in covid test at the school.

The project will be implemented later this week at the Bikurim Youth village in the Eshkol region. “We must think out of the box and come up with creative, innovative solutions to enable us to maintain our routines, especially when it comes to education our children,” said Dr. Itai Pessach, director of the Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba Medical Center. “We hope that this pilot will prove itself so that we can take it to all other schools and sectors.”