Schools will no longer conduct pooled coronavirus testing after May 13, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
The decision came as BA.2, a highly contagious subvariant of the omicron variant, rendered pooled testing less effective due to the speed at which the virus can infect a person before it’s detected, said DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell.
Schools will conduct their last week of pooled testing from May 9 to May 13, and the final pooled testing results will be reported out on May 15.
“While pooled testing was an important tool for schools in an earlier phase of the pandemic, regular home testing is a more effective strategy given how contagious the BA.2 variant is,” said Pender Makin, the commissioner of the Department of Education.
The education department will begin sending out home test kits on April 25. Some 125 Maine schools have placed orders for 528,040 tests since the state agency launched the home testing kit program last week.
Some 34 percent of students and staff at 440 Maine schools currently participate in the state pooled testing program. Last December, 40 percent of the population at 416 schools participated.
With pooled testing, a lab tests samples from up to 25 students — a “pool” — at once. Students in a pool are then tested individually if the test of their pool comes back positive.