• Friday, December 18, 2020

Adam's Corner - Special Year End Edition

Special Preview of Student COVID Testing

By Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

As we head into our winter holiday at the end of a very challenging year, we wanted to take the time to give everyone a preview of the new COVID-19 testing protocol we will be launching for faculty/staff and students when we return to our campuses on Tuesday, January 5. In addition, we wanted to take a moment for a huge THANK YOU to the families who gave to the 隆起基金 Uplift Fund from December 6–16, raising $214,000+ (including the $50,000 anonymous challenge match) to cover the cost of testing, which had not been planned for in the 2020-2021 school year budget.

We piloted Mirimus SalivaClear testing for our faculty and staff over the past week. This testing pilot was instrumental in identifying a positive case in our community, and at a much faster pace than would have been done with our regular protocol of PCR nasal swab testing done in local clinics. As many of you already know, it takes a day or two even to schedule an appointment, and with the current surge, it often takes 3-4 days to get a result. Having everyone participate in our Mirimus saliva testing will allow us to identify any potential cases faster, and get student and faculty cohorts into quarantine faster as well. 

It is worth mentioning first that we do not see this increased testing protocol as a quick fix to manage potential COVID-19 infections and outbreaks. Instead, we see that the weekly saliva testing will be an extra layer of precaution to screen for any potential asymptomatic illnesses in our community. We also believe that adding students to existing faculty testing protocols will bring more peace of mind to everyone on campus and, we hope, to many parents and guardians at home too. We wish to emphasize that this testing protocol is not a substitute for our existing health and safety protocols, but just another layer of precaution. We will continue to emphasize the need for cohorting, physical distancing, masking, handwashing, and daily symptom tracking among members of our community as the key protocols to keep everyone healthy and safe at CAIS.

Here is some basic information about how the pool saliva testing process works and how we will put it into process at CAIS.

  • Distribution of Kits, Collection of Samples, Dropoff at School

    Each week on Tuesdays, we will send students home with a small plastic bag containing a testing kit. We ask families to work with their kids to fill halfway a small plastic tube with their saliva, wipe down the tube with an alcohol wipe to sterilize it, and return the completed sample in the plastic bag to school each day.

    Families will be asked to have students have their plastic bags with their samples ready to return to us right at morning drop off each Wednesday morning. Similar to expectations for families to complete the Magnus Health daily symptom tracking survey, we will require students to have a completed sample before they can be admitted to school that day.

    To the right is a sample testing kit, including a green-capped saliva collection tube, a saliva straw to aid in the collection process, and an alcohol wipe inside a small sample collection plastic bag.



  • Testing Process

    Once we have collected samples, Health Center Director Lesly Louie and I will work to process the kits into pools of no more than 24 samples. In most cases, each pool will contain samples from two student cohorts. We will ship the entire set of 19 student pools overnight to Mirimus Labs, and they will be tested in pools each week on Thursdays. Here is additional information on the SalivaClear testing process from Mirimus.

    Please note that Mirimus saliva testing is RT-PCR testing, and shows a level of accuracy similar to nasal RT-PCR tests. This is not a “rapid test,” which generally is not as reliable in their levels of accuracy.


  • Notification

    On Thursdays, Lesly and I will be able to log into our Mirimus portal to analyze results. Since each pool is tested as a “group” we would be able to see immediately if there were to be a positive case among the 24 samples. If the pool is “negative/no virus detected,” no further action is needed. If, however, a positive result came in, Mirimus will do additional testing of the samples from the pool in groups of two to identify a possible “hotspot” of two individuals, one of which being the infected sample. The next step would be to contact the individual students’ families, obtain consent from parents/guardians to do individual tests, and then have Mirimus complete these individual tests to identify the point of infection. From that point on, we would be able to put into motion our regular quarantine protocols for any affected cohorts and/or individuals.

    A similar process will be taken for faculty and staff earlier each week. We are keeping employee pool testing separate from student pool testing.



  • Costs

    There will be no cost to any CAIS community members for this testing service. The CAIS Board of Trustees has prioritized this as an emergency expenditure for this school year’s budget, which has been met in part by support through the Uplift Fund. We are sorry that we will need to limit testing only to CAIS employees and students.  We cannot accommodate other family members of associated CAIS faculty, staff, or students.


  • Next Steps

    ECD and Lower School Families

    We will distribute testing kits to students on Tuesday, January 5, ensuring that they are packed in students’ backpacks, and send reminder emails to families asking that you retrieve the kits from your children when you pick them up. You then will need to work with your child to collect a sample either that evening, or the following morning before leaving for school. 

    Here is a cute, short video that shows a 5 or 6 year old child completing a sample (with some help from his mom!), that shows that saliva collection is a fairly simple process, even for young children.

    We will send a text message on the morning of Wednesday, January 6 to remind all ECD and Lower School on-campus cohort families to make sure that they have their completed samples ready to drop off when coming to school that morning. 

    Middle School Families

    Since we have staggered MS classes coming for in-person classes, we feel that it will be easier to collect samples directly from students during their class breaks on our first two days back. BLUE/PURPLE cohort students from all three grade levels will submit their samples on Tuesday, January 5 during a class break outside and with social distancing, just as they do with student meals. ORANGE/PINK cohort students will engage in the same process on Wednesday, January 6. 

    We will then furnish students with kits to take home, and begin morning drop-off curbside collection on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting on January 12 and 13.


  • Paperwork

    After Winter Break, we will send paperwork home with students for you to complete and return in January.

    We will be following up with reminders and more information after the New Year to review these collection processes as we gear up for the students’ return in January. In the meantime, please do be in touch (covidresponse@cais.org) if you have more questions about the saliva testing protocol.


  • Updated Magnus Health Survey Tracking Questions

    Given that San Francisco County’s new travel quarantine orders are now in effect, we will be adding the following question to our current Magnus symptom tracking questions that we have used for the past three weeks since Thanksgiving Break.

    The SF County Health Order issued on December 16 requires that anyone coming into San Francisco quarantine for 10 days if they have gone outside any of the 10 Bay Area counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Santa Cruz) between December 18 and January 4. Have you (if CAIS employee) or your child (if student) been outside of these Bay Area counties in the past 10 days?


    One final word from me—as Jeff underscored in his message yesterday, even with vaccines being distributed to frontline health workers and vulnerable individuals, we still are not out of the woods with this pandemic. Indeed we are far from it, as California now finds itself as a current epicenter of the pandemic not just in the US, but in the whole world. And, quite literally as I type this, my phone is buzzing with an emergency alert about the new Health Order that has gone into effect today. 

    This is serious. Please make good choices for you and your families over the next two week. Avoid unnecessary travel, do not associate outside of your families or “pods,” and engage in safe behaviors outside of your home. We can beat this virus, but only if everyone does their part to keep safe and healthy.

    Thanks for reading, and please do be in touch with any questions. Have a safe, restful holiday and let’s hope for better times ahead in the New Year.

    Adam Ross
    Pandemic Response Coordinator

  • Chinese American International School


    Early Childhood Division (Preschool) | Alice A. Carnes Center
    42/52 Waller Street 

    Early Childhood Division (K-1)
    and Lower School (2-5)
    150 Oak Street 

    Middle School (6-8)
    888 Turk Street 

    San Francisco, CA 94102

Sending You Off with Some Happy Thoughts

For all the heavy news of late, there are still bright spots and we wanted to draw your attention to two videos that are sure to bring a smile to your face.

The first is a heartwarming parade of parents expressing their appreciation for CAIS faculty and staff in a virtual toast assembled by the Family School Alliance.

FSA Faculty Staff Appreciation

The second is a positively heart-melting view of Preschoolers’ reflections on their understanding of how to stay safe in the pandemic and the superheroes who are keeping them that way! (Special thanks to Fu Laoshi and Ms. Galdino for creating this video!) 

Preschoolers Thank COVID Superheroes

Wishing you a healthy, happy Winter Break and best wishes for 2021 ahead!