Photo: Bob Owen, Staff-photographer / San Antonio Express-News
A San Antonio billionaire wants to test every student in the city between kindergarten and 12th grade for COVID-19.
Community Labs, a new nonprofit backed by former Rackspace Technology CEO Graham Weston, started mass testing at Somerset Independent School District on Wednesday.
Weston hopes to expand the facility to test every student in San Antonio, according to The Wall Street Journal.
On ExpressNews.com: ‘Silent spreaders’ of the coronavirus are the target of a new testing venture in San Antonio
Community Labs uses PCR tests, considered “the gold standard” for accuracy, that cost $35 each. The team attributes their cost savings to generic equipment, like mass-produced plastic tubes and swabs. Somerset ISD is receiving the testing service for free.
Weston realized asymptomatic spreaders demanded more attention when he caught the coronavirus from his son, who hadn’t shown any symptoms. He told the WSJ he fell so ill he thought he would die.
Ever since, he’s been trying to persuade politicians and school and business leaders to test “silent spreaders.”
“We can never really suppress the virus and give people the confidence to go back (to school or work) when we have silent spreaders walking through our population,” Weston told the Express-News.
Somerset ISD was the first school district to take the leap.
The district plans to test every student and staffer every week, with parental permission, and mandate at-home instruction for anyone who tests positive. Students who refuse to be tested will be barred from sports or other extracurricular activities.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been calling Weston for updates. Abbott envisions dozens of the labs around the state if the results are promising.
“I’m hoping that within two weeks we’ll be able to go full scale at all our campuses — every employee, every student,” said Somerset ISD Superintendent Saul Hinojosa. “As soon as possible, as soon as we can get this testing to scale, we want to welcome back all our students.”