Erie County Department of Health Announces School-Based COVID-19 Testing Programs

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Metro Creative Connection

Mon Sep 27, 2021 7:05 PM

The majority of school districts in Erie County have signed up to this initiative

√ Programs designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools and to maximize the time students spend learning in school

With the support of approximately $ 18.5 million in federal funding, the Erie County Department of Health is coordinating COVID-19 testing for K-12 students and school staff.

“COVID-19 is an aggressive and infectious disease, and we are able to proactively offer COVID-19 testing to students and school staff. Doing this is part of better protection for our entire community, ”said Health Commissioner Dr Gale Burstein. “This initiative works alongside other mitigation strategies and requirements outlined in the New York State Department of Health school guidelines.”

She added: “Testing can mean the difference between a few scattered cases in a school and an outbreak and a full-blown COVID-19 shutdown. It can also reduce the number of students and school staff who are out of school due to isolation, illness and quarantine. “

Children under 12 are currently not eligible for available COVID-19 vaccines, making other prevention strategies, such as testing, all the more crucial for this vulnerable population, ECDOH said.

One program involves drug tests, which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NYSDOH to be part of a school’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. This program involves weekly testing on a random sample of students and school staff. Schools working with ECDOH are currently enrolling students in this program.

A second program of proximity testing is provided as needed when a classroom has a positive COVID-19 case. Students and staff in these settings who do not need to quarantine under current NYSDOH guidelines, but who were present in a classroom with a positive COVID-19 case while that case was infectious, will be seen offer a COVID-19 PCR test three to five days after this exposure.

“We want to reduce the risk of transmission in the classroom and keep children in school,” Burstein said. “Our department strongly encourages parents to enroll their children in this program if it is offered by their school.

Proximity tests will begin in early October.

Healthcare professionals from Buffalo Home Care Inc. will oversee sample collection and transport to Quadrant Biosciences, a local laboratory. Swab samples from inside the mouth are self-collected by the student or staff member.

“This is a much less invasive method of taking a sample, especially compared to other diagnostic tests where a sample is taken from deep within the nasal cavity,” Burstein said. “Children as young as 3 years old are able to handle this, with supervision. “

These COVID-19 test results are expected to be available within one business day to the parent or school staff member through the Quadrant Biosciences secure smartphone app and website. The ECDOH school team within the epidemiology office will have access to the positive results and will contact these students and school staff to begin contact tracing for positive cases.

Students must have parental consent to participate in one or both of the testing programs. Parents and school staff can register to participate in these testing programs at http://www.erie.gov/schooltesting. Or, they can contact their school principal.

COVID-19 testing will be provided at no cost to families or staff. Health insurance is requested during the registration process, but is not required at all.

ECDOH said these testing programs should not be confused with the COVID-19 diagnostic tests it offers and provided by private medical providers and many pharmacies.

“The type of test is the same, however, any student or school staff who shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is in close contact with a case of COVID-19 should not use these school programs to confirm a diagnosis. or as a way to come back. to school after an illness, ”said Burstein. “If you have respiratory symptoms or feel sick, you shouldn’t go to school or work. Call 716-858-2929 to schedule a test via ECDOH or access one of the many COVID-19 testing options in Erie County. “

The list of school districts and schools participating in Erie County’s School Screening and Immediate Screening programs changes regularly as schools enroll. Visit www.erie.gov/schooltesting and click on the “ECDOH Program Consent Form” to see if a school district, BOCES program, or school is listed.

For more:

√ ECDOH COVID-19 vaccine information clinic schedule: http://www.erie.gov/vax

√ ECDOH COVID-19 Information Line: 716-858-2929 – foreign language interpretation available

√ Weekly ECDOH COVID-19 data updates: https://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=covid-19-media-data

√ Erie County COVID-19 Wastewater Test: http://erie.gov/covid19-wastewater


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