Plans in place for initiative to begin for many schools next week
At a virtual meeting Friday with more than 150 Erie County school administrators, district superintendents and nursing staff from public, private and charters schools, the Erie County Department of Health and its epidemiology school team presented “test to stay” protocols for p-12 students. ECDOH stated, “This program may start for many schools as early as next week.”
The New York State Department of Health issued specific documentation related to “test to stay” for schools in December 2021. ECDOH reviewed that information along with the results of a “test to stay” pilot program at Grand Island Central School District in December, and updates to NYSDOH isolation and quarantine guidance made as recently as Jan. 4.
“The ‘test to stay’ program has many moving pieces, and schools will have substantial day-to-day responsibility, as they are the ones who are identifying school-based contacts, following the testing protocol, and reporting results to NYSDOH and ECDOH,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “That being said, schools, students and families have shown remarkable resilience this pandemic, and demonstrated the importance of in-school learning. Broadly, they indicated this is a challenge they are willing to accept. Our school team is available as a resource for schools to implement this program safely.”
The ECDOH “test to stay” plan will allow students at qualifying p-12 schools, who would otherwise be subject to quarantine, to attend classes following an in-school COVID-19 exposure, as long as they remain symptom-free.
The goal of this program is to maximize the time that students spend learning in classrooms, while minimizing the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission following a known in-school COVID-19 exposure.
Schools will perform COVID-19 testing on eligible students whose parents provided consent to participate on a schedule recommended by ECDOH. Fully vaccinated students are not subject to quarantine under current NYSDOH guidance, and will not be eligible for the “test to stay” program.
ECDOH will supply COVID-19 antigen tests to participating schools and school districts once administrators have confirmed their school’s eligibility, and placed orders for test supplies. Eligible p-12 schools must have a limited service license from NYSDOH and a medical director. Schools will be able to pick up those orders when available next week and should expect to receive additional COVID-19 rapid tests from NYSDOH.