- Student Voice
- News & Events
With support from and in collaboration with our partner independent school districts, CAST Schools launches the, "Accelerated Pandemic Suppression System," with Community Labs and designates CAST Schools as COVID Safety Zones. Frequent screening will help identify asymptomatic carriers and help keep non-carriers free of the virus and healthy.
We at CAST are on a continuous mission to reinvent schooling to maximize options for students. Today, as we confront a pandemic, we are committed to the safety and health of our students and educators. We are tremendously grateful for the partnership between Bexar County, Community Labs, East Central ISD, San Antonio ISD, and Southwest ISD. This collaboration will enhance our ability to provide an additional layer of safety for those attending school in person, and enhance a safe reopening of schools.
Administer Pain-free, front-nostril PCR tests on every person on campus
The local lab will share results within 24 Hours
Identify those who tested positive with COVID-19
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will isolate for 2 weeks
*The Health and Law Magnet at Fox Tech will also participate as they share a campus with CAST Tech and ALA.
Community Labs is a nonprofit organization committed to creating COVID-19 Safety Zones in schools and other businesses by testing for asymptomatic COVID-19 pa3ents with speed, accuracy, and the ability to scale to large populations in a zone. Through a non-invasive, front-of-nose swab of a nostril, Community Labs can provide accurate results in 24 hours. The lab, based in San Antonio, will start with 600 tests a day, scale to 12,000 tests a day, and have the potential to scale significantly in the near future.
Community Labs is about getting back to school, back to work, and back together, safely.
Unlike other labs across the country, Community Labs tests designated groups of people – micro- populations -- to determine asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Through an innovative, non-invasive model, their labs provide accurate test results in 24 hours, and can scale from hundreds to eventually hundreds of thousands of tests a day to create COVID-19 Safety Zones where people can get back together, safely.
Why not!?! No other group in the country has been able to leverage innovation and technology to create COVID-19 Safe Zones and employees back to work and teachers and students back into school safely. Community Labs have innovative founders, a great partner in BioBridge Global, the ability to leverage scientists from Harvard, MIT, and UT Health-San Antonio and the desire to help San Antonio start the recovery in a stronger way than other cities. They are creating the playbook and are willing to share it with other cities.
Assurance testing, or accelerated pandemic suppression, is the strategy Community Labs promotes to identify asymptomatic “silent spreaders” and suppress the COVID-19 pandemic. Pioneered at the Broad Institute by scientists from Harvard and MIT, tactics include: testing individuals in micro-populations at least once a week, providing test results in 24 hours or less, identifying those who test positive and requiring them to quarantine for two weeks before re-testing. Those who test negative may attend school or go to work with the assurance that those around them have also tested negative.
Silent spreaders are people who don’t exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection, also called asymptomatic. Fifty percent (50%) of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic and can spread the disease without knowing it. Community Lab's know if they can identify those asymptomatic carriers in schools and businesses, it will allow Community Labs to create COVID-19 Safety Zones allowing kids to go back to in-person learning and employees to go back to work.
Rather than partially test the entire US population; Community Labs can fully test thousands of micro-populations. A micro-population is a school, business or community organization with a known, cooperative roster of students, employees, or members.
The test that will be used by Community Labs is not a new test developed here. It is a Thermo Fisher Scientific test that first received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA in March, and has been in consistent use since then. It was one of the first COVID-19 tests to be authorized for use under an EUA. As of yet, no tests for COVID-19 have been approved by the FDA — all tests in use in the US fall under FDA Emergency Use Authorization status.
The Thermo Fisher Scientific test is not being modified or altered for use by Community Labs. What IS innovative is how the test will be used to test asymptomatic populations to prevent the spread of the virus. Currently most COVID-19 testing in San Antonio is available only to patients who have symptoms. In addition, they have worked to solve several supply chain issues to help lower the cost of the test and to ensure it can be made more widely available. In many cases, shortages of testing reagents and supplies have limited availability of testing and kept costs high.
The Community Labs testing process uses a PCR test, considered the gold standard for detection of COVID-19 virus. The test has been validated and shown to attain the required FDA level for sensitivity and accuracy.
At this time, the Community Labs is working exclusively with schools, businesses and organizations – contained micro-populations. Individuals in San Antonio can find testing sites at the City of San Antonio’s website: https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/Home. However, local labs are primarily testing those who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms.
We all want children and teachers safely in a classroom and learning. Community Lab's strategy is specifically designed to quickly test children and adults, identify the asymptomatic carriers to stop the spread of the virus, and allow children and adults to learn in a COVID-19 Safety Zone that is virus-free and safe.
Two things happened. The first was that many of us assumed this was already taking place. Then, Graham Weston, the Community Labs chairman, was actual diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the year, and it is believed he got the virus from someone close to him who was asymptomatic. After a little research and trying to find places that would provide a quick and high-quality test to those who were asymptomatic, an idea was born. The Broad Institute in Boston had done some work with asymptomatic screening but cannot take it to scale in a way that is needed. Leveraging their insight, scientists at BioBridge Global and UT Health-San Antonio were able to innovate a solution. With the funding from 80| 20 Foundation, Kronkosky Foundation and the Tobin Endowment, Community Labs was established.
Utilizing innovative supply chain solutions, the price of each test will be materially lower than current market prices, with a goal of scaling the price to lower than $35 per test. Businesses and organizations interested in implementing accelerated pandemic suppression testing for their employees may contact Community Labs at email@example.com or 210-866-6935. An initial pilot program has been established at Somerset ISD and that testing is being funded by generous donors.
Community Labs is a collaborative nonprofit organization co-founded by Graham Weston, former CEO and Chairman of Rackspace Technology (NASDAQ: RXT) and Founder of the 80|20 Foundation; J. Bruce Bugg Jr., Chairman and Trustee of The Tobin Endowment; and J. Tullos Wells, Managing Director of The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. Weston is Chairman of Community Labs, with Bugg and Wells serving as Vice Chairmen. They provided and initial $2.5 million to launch Community Labs and are exploring other funding options and sources to be able to scale this effort.
The San Antonio Safe Learning Fund has been established at the San Antonio Area Foundation to fund an initial testing pilot at Somerset ISD, with the intention to expand to other area school districts. The fund, seeded by the 80|20 Foundation, is seeking donors to support this important work. Interested donors may contact Alexandra Frey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This screening process was created by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and, in partnership with UT Health San Antonio and the staff at BioBridge. The process is being replicated in San Antonio for use. The Community Labs screening process uses a PCR test—the FDA gold standard in COVID-19 testing—uses a less-invasive method, and is 95% effective in detecting asymptomatic silent spreaders of the virus.
All test results are private. Only you and the Health Services Department from your school district will know the results of the test.
If a person tests positive, they will be contacted by the district's Health Services Department staff. For students, parents/guardians will be contacted. The person will be instructed to isolate at home and consult their medical provider. The positive person will not be allowed to enter district facilities until medical clearance or Return to School/Work criteria has been met. School Health Services personnel will provide Return to School/Work criteria.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) requires districts to provide notification to staff, students, and parents when a positive case is identified at a campus. Notifications will be sent upon identification of such cases. The district will contact any additionally identified potential exposures based on TEA’s guideline and definition for exposure.
In national emergencies, the FDA is legally authorized to work with FDA-approved labs to create tests for emergency use. These labs go through a strenuous process for safety, validity of tests, and outcomes. BioBridge in San Antonio is one of those labs. Through this partnership with Community Labs, BioBride is using a PCR test - the gold standard of FDA COVID-19 testing- because of its 95% accuracy rate. The COVID-19 testing used by BioBridge and Community Labs is authorized by the FDA for emergency use.