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The Erie County Department of Health offered another update to school district superintendents and non-public school administrators on Thursday. Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein and members of the ECDOH school team reviewed the most recent New York State Department of Health COVID-19 guidance, particularly as it relates to COVID-19 contact tracing, case investigations and resources available from ECDOH for testing programs, including “test to stay.”
Other topics covered in this meeting included questions about implementing “test to stay,” isolation and quarantine.
Until very recently, PK-12 schools had been required to provide contact information for students with an in-school coronavirus exposure (close contacts by the NYSDOH definition for school close contacts) to their local health department. ECDOH or NYSDOH contact tracers did the contact tracing/case investigation to give those exposed individuals information about their exposure and quarantine. With newly issued NYSDOH guidance, schools may opt to provide ECDOH with those close contacts to make those quarantine notifications. They may choose to make some of those notifications to parents, and rely on ECDOH for those case investigations/notifications for higher-risk exposures (e.g., buses, lunch rooms). Or they may choose to directly notify individuals of their COVID-19 exposure.
ECDOH stated, “These options were clearly outlined for school administrators who participated in today’s meeting.” It also noted:
•Schools must continue to notify ECDOH or their local health department about positive COVID-19 cases, either identified in their testing programs or reported to them by a parent, guardian or staff member.
•ECDOH continues to prioritize COVID-19 case investigations for PK-12 school students, and will work with schools that choose to provide contact information to ECDOH for students and staff in school settings who have a COVID-19 exposure.
•ECDOH has provided schools that are implementing a “test to stay” program with documentation and COVID-19 test kits. ECDOH has also provided access to a third-party’s limited-service license, to eliminate any existing barriers for schools to use this program with their students. Pending approval from the Erie County Legislature, ECDOH plans to compensate schools based on the number of tests they administer for the “test to stay” program. This funding would come from federal funding allocated to states for local health departments to support surveillance and diagnostic COVID-19 testing in schools.
•ECDOH offers screening and proximate COVID-19 testing to schools, and the department encourages the use and promotion of this service as a way to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and reduce the risk of in-school COVID-19 transmission. Parents and families interested in these programs should contact their school administration.
As NYSDOH issues additional PK-12 school guidance, ECDOH will review and provide those updates to school leaders.
The ECDOH website at www.erie.gov/covid19 has up-to-date COVID-19 information and links to NYSDOH guidance.
Positive at-home COVID-19 test results may be reported to www.erie.gov/hometestreport.