Local officials hash out plans for COVID test kits in schools

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 5:31 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The state is shipping off COVID-19 testing kits to its counties as part of the mission of keeping kids in the classroom. County and school officials have some homework to do to figure out what to do with the tests.

The north country will be getting thousands of COVID-19 testing kits in the coming days courtesy of the state. They’re all earmarked for students and staff at local schools.

On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul spoke about how frustrating current quarantine rules at schools can be.

“Children are in a classroom; they think they’re doing well. One of their classmates tests positive. Everybody goes home for 10 days. Then you come back for a week. Then another one tests positive, and you go home for another 10 days,” she said.

To avoid scenarios like these, the state is rolling out what it calls the Test to Stay program.

Asymptomatic unvaccinated school-goers can avoid quarantine for academic purposes only after being exposed to COVID in school if they test negative at least three times in a week.

The kits coming down from the state can be used for this.

Lewis County Public Health officials say they’re getting thousands of tests in a few days, which should support Test to Stay.

But St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Tom Burns expects just enough to give one kit to each St. Lawrence County student - too few for the program.

“That program requires a lot of testing. So, we would need more tests to do that,” said Burns.

Other state recommendations include testing students and staff as they return from holiday break.

That’s how Jefferson County plans to use the more than 22,000 tests it will get. But that only covers the students.

The third option is use the kits to support ongoing surveillance in schools.

Burns says St. Lawrence County needs to hash out a plan for the kits it will receive.

“But on the positive side, we’re happy to get all these tests and to have some different options,” he said.

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