“One objective of all Ulster County school districts was to maximize the number of students who experience in-person instruction with their teachers and classmates on a daily basis,” Ulster Boces superintendent Dr. Charles Khoury said. “Under the previous guidance, this has been challenging. With everyone’s cooperation, especially keeping symptomatic students home, the Test-to Stay initiative should allow us to do just that.”
The new guidance, announced on Sunday by Ulster Country executive Pat Ryan, requires testing for Covid of students who come into contact with an exposure but are asymptomatic and test negative over a series of days, After testing, these students can continue to attend school.
The county health department will work with the schools to develop policies, procure testing, and offer technical support for districts implementing the new program, called Test-to-Stay.
“This program will not only reduce unnecessary quarantines, but also keep our students safe by identifying positive cases and limiting the possible spread,” Kingston schools superintendent Dr, Paul Padalino said. “It may take a few days for the district to get up and running, but we are pleased to have another tool to combat Covid 19 in our schools.”
Test-to-Stay has been proven to reduce transmission rates in schools. State policies require that the exposure must have occurred in the school setting while both the person with Covid-19 and exposed person were consistently and properly masked, that the exposed person remains asymptomatic (if the exposed person who is allowed to remain in school through Test-to-Stay develops symptoms, they must be immediately excluded from school per current guidance), and that the exposed person is tested a minimum of three times during the seven-day period following exposure, unless recognition of the exposure is delayed or weekends or school breaks intervene.
The goal, said Ryan, is to keep the kids safely in school. “As students return from winter break amidst the Omicron surge, we are committed to keeping our schools open and our kids safely in classrooms,” he said. “Implementing Test-to-Stay is another proactive step to ensure our schools remain open through this surge, and that our students, teachers, and staff are safe.”
Evidence has been accumulating that the Omicron variant is spreading among young people at a much faster rate than any of the previous variants have.
According to the county dashboard, there were 321 positive findings on December 29, the last date for which data is available. There were 2141 active cases in Ulster County at that time.
A 30-day extension of the county state of emergency, extended last week, expires January 27.