WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country school officials are working to understand new guidance handed down by the state. The rules could cut down on the amount of COVID-19 tests students and staff need, but might create a surge in people seeing their health care provider.
One takeaway from the new rules is a change from an “and” to an “or” - as in, students and staff with symptoms can either have a doctor’s note detailing an alternative diagnosis, or a negative COVID-19 test to be able to come back to school. Jefferson County Public Health Officials say both were needed in the past.
“That allows for those kids that have chronic illness, non-infectious disease to attend school and not be excluded,” said
Faith Lustik, Jefferson County Public Health planner.
Lustik met with county school officials Friday to go over the new rules.
She says another change is a 48-hour window for students and staff to be examined by a health care provider at the onset of any one of the symptoms listed in the guidelines, which range from sore throat to headaches.
If they don’t get a doctor’s note or negative COVID-19 test result in that window, they’re treated as a positive case.
“Then we’re starting our contact tracing at that time. So, the schools will be sending us lists of people who’ve been in contact with the potential positive student,” said Lustik.
Lustik says the extent of the contact tracing efforts would vary case by case.
It’s important to note, those who miss the 48 hour window aren’t automatically counted as COVID positive by the county.
But with the guidelines' wide-range of symptoms and the short time frame to be seen, Lustik says it could create a spike in doctor visits and put pressure on the health system.
“If you have any of those COVID-like symptoms, you need to see your health care provider. So, that’s a lot of different symptoms,” said Lustik.
In St. Lawrence County, Canton Central School District Superintendent Ron Burke says he’s concerned the guidelines might keep multiple staff members out of pivotal positions, like bus driving and cleaning.
“It’s a very new reality that we’re facing with the new regulations, that we will end up having to go completely remote simply because of the staff members that are not able to be present,” he said.
Burke says overall, he’s torn on the state’s new rules.