New Guidance on COVID-19 Testing in Schools

December 7, 2020

Access COVID Testing Webinar Recording

View the Let's Talk About COVID Testing in Schools webinar presented on Monday, December 7, 2021.

On Friday (December 4), the New York State Health Department issued guidance on revised COVID-19 testing requirements for schools located in orange or red zones as part of the state’s “micro-cluster” strategy for combatting the virus. The guidance had been expected since Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the change in a press conference at the beginning of the week.

Previously, schools located in orange or red zones were required to close and switch to remote-only instruction for at least four days, to conduct cleaning and testing. Schools could then reopen for in-person instruction if 100% of all returning on-site students and employees received a negative result from a COVID-19 test.

We and superintendents of affected districts strongly advocated for a change in these requirements. The near universal conclusion was the that 100% participation in testing was unattainable. We also emphasized the very low positivity rates in schools where testing has been done.

“They should be an example to us all. Too many adults have not heeded their education, ignoring the experts and acting without regard for the consequences of their actions by hosting large gatherings or failing to use the most effective tool at our disposal right now: a face covering.”

The new guidance allows schools in orange or red zones to remain open. To do so, schools in orange zones must test 20% of students and employees over a month, with testing spread evenly across the weeks. Schools in red zones must test 30% of students and employees over a month, spread evenly across bi-weekly periods.

  
The new guidance also allows schools to use pool testing but it must be conducted by a laboratory that is approved to conduct diagnostic pooled testing.
  
The guidance does not make changes in testing requirements for schools in yellow zones.

We conducted a webinar on COVID-19 testing today with superintendents who have implemented testing procedures to comply with state requirements. You can review the resources they cited here.
  
The change in guidance reflects growing recognition of the low rate of infections found in schools. Governor Cuomo had a column in Newsday on Sunday. It was titled, “Schools offer smart lessons about COVID-19 spread.” In his briefings, the Governor has used "astonishing" and "amazing" in reference to how low test positivity rates in schools have been. In the column he said,

 “As parents know, schools are usually places where illnesses spread easily. But in the case of COVID-19, the safest place in the community is truly the school. That’s because schools follow basic rules. The students and teachers wear masks. They practice social distancing. They frequently wash their hands. Many of the students are serious about doing their part to keep their friends and families safe.

“They should be an example to us all. Too many adults have not heeded their education, ignoring the experts and acting without regard for the consequences of their actions by hosting large gatherings or failing to use the most effective tool at our disposal right now: a face covering.”

 


2021 Fall Leadership Summit 

Saratoga Hilton & Saratoga Springs City Center
Saratoga Springs, NY 

September 26-28, 2021

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