Assembly members Tom Abinanti, Amy Paulin, Sandy Galef, Chris Burdick, Steve Otis, Gary Pretlow and Ken Zebrowski have been advocating for more flexibility from the State to permit increased in-person attendance in schools.
The Assembly members had a conference call with New York State Health Department (NYSDOH) on Monday, February 15 to get clarification on the State’s school guidance and the process for revising the reopening plans, increasing teacher vaccinations, and securing more surveillance tests. The following is a summary of the conversation:
In light of American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard public health experts, the World Health Organization and CDC issuing new guidance for schools, the question was asked if NYSDOH intended to change the guidance. NYSDOH indicated that no change in the State guidance was necessary or contemplated, and community infection levels are not going to be established as suggested by CDC. Local school districts must continue to follow State protocols.
NYSDOH noted that the STATE’S PRESENT GUIDANCE ALLOWS FOR FLEXIBILITY as demonstrated around the State. The guidance states “Ensure that social distancing (of at least 6 ft. or a physical barrier) is maintained between individuals while in school facilities and on school grounds, ...If social distancing is not possible, for example, in common areas, such as entrances/exits, lobbies, and when traveling around the school individuals must wear acceptable face coverings; excluding students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering.”
The Assembly members also sought clarification on whether NYSED or NYSDOH approval is required for a revision to a school district’s reopening plan. NYSDOH stated that districts are not required to resubmit their revised plans or obtain NYSED or NYSDOH approval provided the plan conforms to the guidance.
School districts need to work with parents and teachers, and consult their county health department, to revise their reopening plans.
Additionally, regarding vaccination of teachers and school personnel NYSDOH indicated that the responsibility is being handled by county DOH. Westchester has opened a vaccination site at Westchester Community College and has agreed to work with school districts to ensure that more vaccines are made available for teachers as supplies allow.
The Assembly members were informed that districts should send their requests for tests directly to Wadsworth Labs. If a school district has a certificate as a Limited Service Laboratory (LSL) it should submit the testing results directly to the State Electronic Clinical Reporting System (ECLRS). If the district is working through the county LSL, then the district should submit its data to the county and the county will send the testing results to ECLRS.