Frequently Asked Questions

Responsive Testing

What is Responsive Testing?

The first phase of SASEA began in November and ran through March 1st. It included weekly diagnostic testing along with wastewater and surface monitoring. The purpose of the weekly diagnostic tests in the first phase was to understand how useful wastewater and surface monitoring are for detecting COVID-19 infections in people who do not have any symptoms. After 12 weeks our team of public health scientists feels confident that wastewater and surface monitoring are a fast and accurate way to detect potential cases of COVID-19 on your school campus even in the absence of diagnostic testing. Due to this success, we are now shifting to a new model where we plan to test only when our wastewater robots or surface swabs detect a potential case. This reflexive testing will happen:

  1. When wastewater is positive, we will come to the school/child care to test all staff. 
  2. When a surface swab is positive, we will come to the school/child care to test all children in the room with the positive swab PLUS all staff members who wish to test that day.

If we plan to come to campus to test, we will notify all consented individuals about the plan on the day before the testing. Individuals (or their parent/guardian) will be notified by text or email, depending on the preferred communication method they indicated in their consent.

How will testing look?

You or your child will be asked to provide samples from your nose. The sample collection kit contains swabs and a collection tube with a non-toxic preservative solution. The swab will be rotated in each nostril approximately 3/4 inches deep for 15 seconds.

Our lab will extract DNA and RNA from these samples, amplify by PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and then sequence to see what micro-organisms (including viruses like SARS-CoV-2) are present and in what proportion.

You will be notified of your test results within 72 hours of your test by email or text, based on the preferences you share with us in the questionnaire.

Who can get tested at school by SASEA?

We will only test individuals who have consented to on-site testing through SASEA. Please be aware that we cannot accept new consents during the week when we test – you must be consented ahead of time to participate in the response testing.

Student Consent Form and Questionnaire
Student Consent Form and Questionnaire (Español)
Staff Consent Form and Questionnaire

Is my family eligible for testing with SASEA?

SASEA is currently only testing staff and students of schools and child care programs participating in the SASEA project. Unfortunately, we are unable to test family members affiliated with our partner sites.

When will SASEA conduct responsive testing at my school/childcare?

As soon as a positive wastewater or a positive surface sample is detected, SASEA will coordinate with the school administrative team to identify a day to conduct response testing on site. Responsive testing days will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays anytime between school hours.

I tested positive for COVID-19 previously, should I still get tested?

You should not get tested until 3 months (90 days) after your positive diagnosis. Tests may come back positive even if you are no longer contagious or have the virus.

Should I still get tested if I have received the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you can and should get tested even if you have been vaccinated. The vaccines make it much less likely but not impossible that you will be infected with COVID-19 and transmit it to others. For this reason, it is important for vaccinated individuals to participate in response testing. Vaccinated individuals will not test positive unless they are infected with COVID-19.

Is there any alternative to the nasal swab?

At this time, we do not offer any alternatives to nasal swabbing.
We want to assure you that our staff are trained to make the nasal swab test as quick and as painless as possible while still returning accurate results. Students and staff who have been tested overall have described the test as “funny” and “ticklish”, but no one has reported that it hurts.

Why are we not using Binax?

Binax has its pros and cons – it is quicker, but less accurate. Because the County of San Diego funds SASEA as a research study, we need the more accurate results of PCR testing. Binax would be a good solution for response testing in implementation.

Why does it take so long between when we know the wastewater/surface samples are positive and when we come in for responsive testing?

The gap is 4-6 days, depending on what day the positive happens. We collect the sample on day 1, receive the results late at night on day 2, and notify the school late that day or morning of day 3. Earliest response testing is day 4, but if a weekend intervenes, it can be up to 6 days.

I like weekly testing. How can I get tested outside of SASEA?

It is a great idea to continue to get tested on a weekly basis. There are many COVID-19 testing sites across the County and COVID-19 testing if FREE. You can go to the San Diego County website to see where the closest testing site to your location is. Please note whether your preferred testing site appointment only or allows for walk-ins. Testing schedules and appointments will be available here.

When is the responsive testing ending?

The responsive testing phase of the SASEA project will end at the end of the school year. SASEA will continue on as a consulting body for schools or districts wishing to implement the SASEA system at their sites.

Will there be testing services after SASEA finishes at our school?

Schools and districts will need to decide if they want to continue having responsive testing at their schools. The SASEA team will continue to work with our partners to find commercial diagnostic testers if a school/district decides to continue the program.

Results and Notifications

How can I change my contact information for test result notifications?

If you need to change your phone number, email address, or any other information that you submitted when you filled out your consent form questionnaire, please contact us here or email us directly at A member of our team will update that information for you. Please do not resubmit another consent form for yourself or your child.

How can I receive official documentation of my test results?

For official documentation of your SASEA test results from our ordering physician, please contact our team here.

Why have I not received my/my child’s test results?

It can take up to 72 hours for our team to process diagnostic tests. If you haven’t received test results 3 days after getting tested, please contact our team here.

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