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On March 13, 2020 Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan joined the Executives from Orange and Dutchess County ordering all schools in those counties to close for two weeks. On March 17, 2020 Governor Andrew Cuomo closed all schools in New York, and on May 1, 2020 he ordered further closures through June and called for school districts to create school re-opening plans for the Fall. On Friday, August 7, 2020 Governor Cuomo announced that all school districts in New York are permitted to re-open pending approval of their re-opening plan by New York State Education Department. The Governor required each district to post their plans on testing, contact tracing and distance learning. On Tuesday, August 11, 2020 Ulster County Executive Ryan met with school district superintendents and agreed that the Ulster County Department of Health will assist in drafting county-wide plans for testing and contact tracing.
Pursuant to the Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (https://forward.ny.gov/phase-four-industries) developed by the New York State Department of Health, this document contains the required Testing and Contact Tracing plans for each school district in Ulster County (“Responsible Parties”).
Purpose of Testing and Tracing Plans
Containment of COVID-19 outbreaks is a key component in returning to school safely, since the alternatives – indefinite school closures or uncontrolled community spread – are unacceptably harmful to students, staff and our communities. In order to prevent and contain outbreaks, it is essential that schools have the means to quickly identify individuals who may be infectious and prevent them from spreading COVID-19 to others.
Ideally, containment strategies rely on rapid, frequent and accurate diagnostic testing to identify positive cases, followed by identification of contacts who may have been exposed and containment of further spread through isolation and quarantine. Testing identifies positive cases who are quickly isolated and monitored, case investigation and contact tracing identifies and quarantines possible exposures to limit further spread.
However, while testing capacity in Ulster County is adequate to support current levels of social and economic activity, it is likely that the reintroduction of in-person learning at all ages and in all locations may cause testing demand to exceed capacity, severely reducing our ability to contain community spread through traditional contact tracing methods. Ulster County is working with all testing partners to monitor and improve turnaround time, with a goal of reducing it to 48 hours or less in order to facilitate a testing-based protocol for case identification in the County’s school districts.
Until testing capacity increases and turnaround times fall, our interim strategy to allow schools to reopen relies on pre-emptive screening to identify suspected COVID-19 cases, so that appropriate steps may be taken to isolate infectious individuals, identify potential exposures, and pre-emptively limit further exposures through targeted quarantines.
District Testing Plan
NYSDOH Plan Requirements
The plan needs to include where the testing will take place and who will be providing the testing and what circumstances the testing will occur, and describe how the district will work with local departments of health.
Each District will implement a testing protocol and procedure that is designed to prevent outbreaks while supporting in-person learning to the greatest extent possible. This requires districts to:
- Establish and implement a screening process for all students, staff, faculty and visitors (including vendors and contractors)
- Identify where testing will take place, who will provide testing, and under what circumstances individuals will be tested
- Describe how these protocols and procedures will be coordinated with the efforts of the UCDOH
Each District is working with local medical providers to test staff members and teachers prior to a return of in-person teaching. This will be accomplished in the weeks prior to the start of in-person learning. Any teacher or staff member who tests positive must go on Ulster County Department of Health’s (UCDOH) isolation protocol. They can not return to work for a minimum of 10 days after the positive test result, and at least 72 hours after the resolution of any symptoms they may have developed. They will need to be released from isolation by the UCDOH in order to return to work.
Upon the resumption of in-person instruction, whether for the entire district student population or a subset of students, the District will implement a screening process consistent with the process described in this plan. The screening process will remain active until such time as the NYSDOH or UCDOH approves changes to the screening process.
The purpose of the Screening Process will be to proactively identify potential cases prior to the confirmation of positive cases through testing. This will enhance containment of spread of the virus to supplement ‘normal’ Contact Tracing of laboratory-confirmed cases.
Screening Process to Identify Suspected Cases
Each District must implement mandatory health screenings, including temperature checks, of students, faculty, staff, and, where applicable, contractors, vendors, and visitors to identify any individuals who may have COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Specifically, all individuals must have their temperature checked each day. If an individual presents a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, the individual must be denied entry into the facility or sent directly to a dedicated area prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home.
UCDOH recommends that Districts also implement a remote health screening procedure, which is to be self-administered and self-reported prior to an individual’s entry into school facilities. As appropriate these remote screenings may be performed via electronic survey, digital application, telephone or other means, and may involve the parent/legal guardian.
The District will also designate one or more qualified individuals to conduct a secondary screening process for any student, staff, contractor, vendor, or visitor who presents with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or who has reason to believe they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (See Model Screening Questionnaire in Attachment 1).
Reporting Suspected Cases
The District will provide timely notifications within 1 hour to the Ulster County Health Department whenever an individual is suspected of having COVID-19. Notifications are required to include, at a minimum, the date/time the individual was identified; the name and contact information of the individual and, in the case of minors, their parent/guardian (including a valid phone number); and the district building/facility at which the individual was identified. Notifications must be submitted in a standard form to be determined by UCDOH, via secure fax to 845-340-3162.
Testing of Suspected Cases and Contacts
Students or staff who have been identified as suspected of COVID-19 or who are identified as direct or proximate exposures to a suspected or confirmed case will be referred to their primary care physician or to one of the County’s testing partners to receive a COVID-19 diagnostic test. The District will not directly provide testing to students and staff, but will make referrals through the individual’s primary care physician or the UCDOH.
There are several privately-operated testing sites throughout Ulster County, and more information can be found by calling (845) 443-8888 or at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/get-tested/
Any individual who is suspected of COVID-19 will be ordered by the UCDOH to quarantine pending the results of testing. The District will require a note from their primary care physician that they are medically cleared to return to school or a negative COVID-19 test, with a specimen collection date on or after the date they have been identified as a suspected case, in order to return prior to the completion of the quarantine. If they test positive for COVID-19 they will need to go through the UCDOH isolation protocol and be released from isolation by the UCDOH prior to returning to in-person learning.
The district will not mandate testing in order to return to school, but if a test is refused, the person suspected of being COVID-positive will need a note from their primary care physician that they are medically cleared to return to school, or they must quarantine for 14 days.
Testing of Travelers and Contacts to Confirmed Cases
Students or staff who are exposed to COVID-19 confirmed individuals, whether outside or within a school facility, or who have traveled for a duration of more than 24 hours to a travel-restricted state, are required to quarantine for 14 days following the date of last exposure or travel. Districts will encourage these individuals to report their exposure or travel to the UCDOH by calling (845) 443-8888.
If symptoms develop, these direct contacts will be considered to be positive pending verification by a test; testing will be strongly encouraged during routine contact monitoring performed by the UCDOH.
These individuals may not be permitted to return to school facilities until their quarantine period has concluded, as verified by documentation from the UCDOH.
District Contact Tracing Plan
NYSDOH Plan Requirements
Provide details about how each school will work with, support, and supplement the contact tracing efforts of their local health department. Plans must include protocols for symptomatic individuals and positive cases in school, and proximate contacts; and a determination for how students and or staff need to be tested to adequately isolate and mitigate additional exposure to COVID-19. The plan must also specify the roles will the Responsible Party’s staff will perform and who among the staff will perform these tests.
While the UCDOH has the primary responsibility for case investigation and contact tracing, effective contact tracing is a collaborative effort that requires the assistance of the District, schools, and families. The District is expected to cooperate fully with UCDOH by providing staff and student lists, schedules and other information to identify suspected or confirmed cases and exposed individuals and to more efficiently and effectively contain the virus.
The District will work with the UCDOH to identify any contacts of all suspected or confirmed COVID-positive students and staff. In consultation with the UCDOH the school nursing staff (medical health staff) will identify direct and proximate contacts and will provide contact information to the UCDOH for each contact.
A direct contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of a suspected or confirmed case for a continuous period of 10 minutes or more. Proximate contacts are individuals who have had brief close encounters or extended encounters at a distance greater than 6 feet with a suspected or confirmed case.
Contact Tracing of Suspected Cases
All contacts (direct and proximate) of a suspected case will be ordered to quarantine pending the test results of the suspected individual. If the individual’s test comes back negative, contacts can return to in-person classes. If the individual’s test comes back positive, direct contacts must go on a mandatory quarantine as ordered by the UCDOH, and they must continue to quarantine for a period of 14 days from last exposure even if they receive a negative test. Students and staff identified as proximate contacts will be required to quarantine but will be permitted to return to school sooner if they provide a negative test result.
Contact Tracing of Confirmed Cases
Any individual who has received notification from the UCDOH or a Primary Care Professional (PCP) that they have tested positive for the virus will receive a phone call from a UCDOH Public Health Care (PHC) nurse. During the case investigation, PHC nurses will elicit contacts for further investigation.
Travelers returning from restricted areas are considered contacts and are expected to quarantine for 14 days from the date they arrived in New York State from a restricted area.
Any individual identified as a direct contact will:
- Be contacted by a NYS Contact Tracer
- Receive quarantine orders for 14 days from the County Health Commissioner
- Be monitored via phone or SMS by trained Contact Tracers
- Be provided support to facilitate their compliance with quarantine orders.
Information Sharing and Data Management
The UCDOH will provide the District with a standard format for sharing of information that maintains compliance with HIPAA, FERPA and other appropriate regulatory standards. The document will contain the names, date of birth, age, names and addresses of parents or guardians and contact information of anyone who is identified as a suspected case, a confirmed case, a direct contact or a proximate contact, and exposure dates and locations of anyone who is suspected of having been exposed to a COVID-positive case.
The following is a list of actions to be taken by either the District or by the UCDOH as a means of successfully conducting contact tracing:
- The District will ensure that contact records for all staff, contractor, student/family contact records are current and include email and cell phone information
- The District will ensure student schedules are up to date
- The District will maintain a log of any visitors, vendors, or contractors to the schools which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited, and who they interacted with.
- The District will provide a current list of staff and students to the UCDOH, upon request, in order to facilitate identification of positive COVID-19 cases in the schools.
- The District’s medical teams will notify the UCDOH within 1 hour of learning that a staff or student has been or may have been exposed to the virus.
- The District’s medical teams will notify the UCDOH of any individuals directly exposed  to the COVID-positive person, along with contact details and the date and nature of exposure.
- The District Medical Team will consult with the UCDOH if uncertain about isolation and/or quarantine guidelines
- The UCDOH will notify the District of any positive test results they receive for staff or students of the District, within 1 hour.
- The UCDOH will coordinate Contact Tracing with neighboring counties’ Departments of Health, to identify any students or staff that live outside of Ulster County. This information will be shared with the District.
- If the District is unable to obtain a timely response from the UCDOH, the District Medical Team will provide interim guidance to affected students or staff, until such time as the situation can be reviewed by the UCDOH
Ulster County will use the New York State’s Communicable Disease Case Management System (CommCare) to manage and monitor all individuals that are suspected or confirmed cases or have come into contact with a suspected or confirmed case. The CommCare system consists of an online application to manage case and contact data, trained Contact Tracers to monitor the individual via telephone and SMS, and a virtual set of tools to parse, analyze and report the data. The CommCare system is managed by the NYS DOH at the state level and the UCDOH at the county level.
 COVID-19 is a reportable communicable disease mandated under the New York State Sanitary Code (10NYCRR 2.10, 2.14), including reporting by school nurses (10NYCRR 2.12). While the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) generally requires parental permission for school personnel to disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education record (including health information). But the law provides exceptions allowing disclosure without consent.
 As defined by CDC, NYSDOH
District Rapid Response Plan
If any school in the District has three or more active cases at one time, involving more than one classroom, the school will close and work with the Ulster County Health Department’s Rapid Response Team on mass testing of staff and students, subject to parent or guardian permission.
Testing will be conducted at one of Ulster County’s COVID-19 mobile testing sites or by members of the UCDOH Rapid Response team at a facility chosen in cooperation with the District. Anyone tested will be required to go on voluntary quarantine until they receive their test results, and the affected school building or facility will provide remote-only learning for two weeks.
The UCDOH will also work with the New York State Department of Health to manage the containment of any evolving outbreak. The District will ensure that all school spaces used by students and staff are cleaned in accordance with NYS requirements and that any space used by a COVID positive or suspected positive individual is decontaminated using the NYSDOH approved guidelines.
Attachment 1: Model Screening Questionnaire
1. Have you (student or staff member) experienced a fever of 100.0 degrees F or greater, a new cough, new loss of taste or smell or shortness of breath within the past 10 days?
Go to the next question.
No further screening is needed. The individual must be sent home for follow up by their primary care physician health professional and a referral for a Covid-19 test should be made. Notify the Ulster County Health Department via fax to 845-340-3162.
2. In the past 10 days, have you received a positive result from a COVID-19 diagnostic test that was administered by a nose or throat swab? (not a blood test)
Go to the next question.
No further screening is needed. If ill, he individual must be sent home for follow up by their primary care physician health professional. The individual or family should be encouraged to follow Ulster County Health Department isolation guidance. Notify the Ulster County Health Department via fax to 845-340-3162.
3. To the best of your knowledge, in the past 14 days, have you been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) with anyone while they had COVID-19?
If ill, the individual should be sent home. Regular illness protocols should be followed. Go to the next question.
No further screening is needed. If ill, the individual must be sent home for follow up by their primary care physician health professional. The individual or family should be encouraged to follow Ulster County Health Department quarantine guidance. Notify the Ulster County Health Department via fax to 845-340-3162.
4. In the past 14 days, have you returned from travel to one or more restricted states as identified by NYSDOH (https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory)?
If ill, the individual should be sent home. Regular illness protocols should be followed.
If ill, the individual must be sent home for follow up by their primary care physician health professional. The individual or family should be encouraged to follow New York State Traveler Guidance and t-o complete the Traveler Health Form (https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory) or call (845) 443-8888.
Attachment 2: COVID-19 FAQ for Schools
Pre-K to 12th Grade
Last Updated: August 12, 2020
Ulster County Department of Health (UCDOH)
Q1: When and how should we report positive COVID-19 cases to UCDOH?
A: Immediately notify UCDOH if a student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19:
- 845-443-8888, and/or
Q2. Are schools responsible for contact tracing for students, faculty and staff?
A: While UCDOH has the primary responsibility for contact tracing, effective contact tracing is a joint collaborative effort - UCDOH will need the assistance of schools in providing staff and student lists and schedules and other information to identify exposed individuals, arrange for testing, etc.
Q3. Will contact tracers release the name of the positive individual to their contacts?
A: No. Contact tracers will tell potentially infected persons that they were exposed – they will not disclose the identity of the person to whom they were exposed.
Q4. How long will contacts to positive COVID-19 cases be required to quarantine?
A: Individuals who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the day they were last exposed. Please note that a negative test does not release an individual from quarantine.
Q5. What resources will an isolating or quarantined person require?
A: An isolating or quarantined person will need access to a private room and a private bathroom. Individuals will also need access to food, medications and other essential items that will allow them to remain in quarantine. People who need assistance during quarantine or isolation can call 845-443-8888
Q6. When should an exposed individual get tested for COVID-19?
A: Testing should be conducted approximately 5 days after exposure. Exposed individuals must remain on quarantine until being tested and must immediately return to quarantine following such testing. If a person tests positive, they will be placed in isolation (for a period determined by the UCDOH). Even if the test is negative, the individual must continue to quarantine for the full 14 days
Q7. Where can students, faculty and staff get tested for COVID-19?
A: A list of testing sites can be found on the Ulster County COVID-19 website https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/get-tested/
Students, faculty and staff can also call the Ulster County Hotline (Recovery Service Center) at 845-443-8888, or the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065 for assistance locating a testing site.
Q8. Is there a charge for COVID-19 tests?
A: Charges may vary. Testing is covered by most insurance companies and will have zero patient cost or a standard co-pay. The most reliable way is to get tested for free is at a state-run test site, which is available at the mobile testing site at Anthony Wayne Recreational Area in Harriman State Park; for appointments and hours call (888) 364-3065.
Q9. When can a person who has tested positive return to school? Is it the same process for students, faculty and staff?
A: If the individual who tested positive has symptoms (Fever, Cough, Shortness of Breath/Difficulty Breathing, Chills, Repeated Shaking with Chills, Muscle Pain, Headache, Sore Throat, or New Loss of Taste or Smell) the Clearance Criteria for release from isolation are:
- It’s been at least 10 days since the individual first started experiencing symptoms; AND
- The individual hasn’t had a fever in at least 3 days, without taking fever-reducing medication (such as Tylenol); AND
- Any shortness of breath/coughing/difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell has improved.
If the individual who tested positive is asymptomatic the Clearance Criteria are:
- It’s been at least 10 days since the person’s first positive COVID-19 test was collected; AND
- The individual hasn’t had any subsequent illness
Q10. Can we assume that students with antibodies are safe from contracting COVID-19?
A: No, we do not have enough information about whether antibodies protect individuals from re-infection and how long antibodies may provide protection. Antibody tests also CANNOT diagnose if an individual has active infectious COVID-19. A positive result can mean you had infection with COVID-19 in the past. A different test would be needed to determine active infection.
Q11. Are rapid tests (Antigen or Molecular) reliable?
A: Rapid tests provide results in under an hour, though they have a high rate of false negatives. Rapid antigen tests which are the most commonly performed rapid COVID-19 test cannot rule out COVID-19 and should be followed up by a molecular test. Please see the FDA Coronavirus Testing Basics site, which includes a video.
Q12. Do students coming back from vacation from states on Governor Cuomo’s travel advisory need to quarantine?
A: Yes, students who are coming to New York from any of the states on the travel advisory need to quarantine for 14 days. The most up-to-date list of states is available here. (https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-traveladvisory#restricted-states)
Q13. What qualifies as an exposure to COVID-19?
A: Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a person displaying symptoms of or testing positive for COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer. Close contacts will be required to quarantine. Proximate contact is defined as being in the same enclosed environment such as a classroom or office, but greater than 6 feet from a person displaying symptoms of or testing positive for COVID-19. UCDOH will determine if a proximate contact should be under quarantine.
QUARANTINE & ISOLATION CLARIFICATIONS
Q14. Why is the isolation period for an infected person shorter than the quarantine period of a contact?
A: The time period for incubation is different from the time period of illness and infectiousness. When a person is exposed to COVID-19, it can take anywhere from 2-14 days for the person to develop the disease (incubation), hence the quarantine period is 14 days. Once the disease develops, a person is infectious from 2 days prior to symptoms appearing to, at minimum, 10 days after the symptoms develop, hence the isolation period is at minimum 10 days, but can be longer.
Q15. Can you leave quarantine for a Covid-19 test or does your quarantine start all over after you went out to get that test?
A: Yes, you can leave quarantine for a COVID-19 test however during travel to and from testing you should minimize contact with others, wear a mask/ face covering, observe distancing and utilize private means for transportation. No, your quarantine period does not re-start. However, even if you test negative, you must continue to quarantine until the full 14 days from the last exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual.
CONTACT TRACING QUESTIONS:
Q16. In the event there is a large exposure, what is the plan if the DOH gets overwhelmed with the case load once school starts?
A: The Ulster County Department of Health has been working in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health on contact tracing, using a joint system for tracking cases and contacts, This system also allows for both the county and state to have increased capacity of contact tracing should it be needed.
Q17. How do those testing positive at sites or who live outside of Ulster County or New York State integrate into the NYSDOH systems?
A: Lab reports from ‘out of jurisdiction’ are transferred and reported to the state/county of residence (of record) of the individual. So for instance, if an Ulster County resident tests at a location in New Jersey, that lab result is reported to the New Jersey Department of Health, who transfers it to New York State Department of Health, and subsequently the Ulster County Department of Health. (Note: please make sure your current phone and address are correct at a testing location, so the results can be reported to the correct jurisdiction and local health department can follow up with communication). NYSDOH obtains lab reports on individuals who do not live (but work) in Ulster County and provides these to UCDOH. Likewise, if a school employee or student lives outside of Ulster County, we will notify the relevant County.
QUESTIONS RELATED TO HOUSEHOLD CONTACTS:
Q18. If a child tests positive and has a sibling in the school, should the school keep the sibling out of school?
A: Yes, unless the siblings reside in separate households, the sibling must be placed on quarantine which would mean that the sibling should not attend school during the required period for quarantine.
Q19. If a student/staff member is home on quarantine and then develops symptoms, please explain how that impacts attendance to school/work and what it means for the siblings that may have been continuing to go to school.
A: If a student or staff tests positive, their household members will likely be considered close contacts and will need to quarantine. Students or staff testing positive will require isolation for a minimum of 10 days
Q20. If someone has to quarantine and has a family member in isolation is it 10 days+14 for the quarantine. Or would it be 4 more days?
A: Determining quarantine periods can vary depending on the particular situation; the specifics will be determined in conversation with the Department of Health case investigators and contact tracers. Here are some sample scenarios (CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html):
- Scenario 1: Close contact with someone who has COVID-19—will not have further close contact. I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and will not have further contact or interactions with the person while they are sick (e.g., co-worker, neighbor, or friend). Your last day of quarantine is 14 days from the date you had close contact.
- Scenario 2: Close contact with someone who has COVID-19—live with the person but can avoid further close contact. I live with someone who has COVID-19 (e.g., roommate, partner, family member), and that person has isolated by staying in a separate bedroom. I have had no close contact with the person since they isolated. Your last day of quarantine is 14 days from when the person with COVID-19 began home isolation.
- Scenario 3. Under quarantine and had additional close contact with someone who has COVID-19. I live with someone who has COVID-19 and started my 14-day quarantine period because we had close contact. What if I ended up having close contact with the person who is sick during my quarantine? What if another household member gets sick with COVID-19? Do I need to restart my quarantine? Yes. You will have to restart your quarantine from the last day you had close contact with anyone in your house who has COVID-19. Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and you had close contact, you will need to restart your quarantine. Date of additional close contact with person who has COVID-19 + 14 days = end of quarantine.
- Scenario 4: Live with someone who has COVID-19 and cannot avoid continued close contact. I live in a household where I cannot avoid close contact with the person who has COVID-19. I am providing direct care to the person who is sick, don’t have a separate bedroom to isolate the person who is sick, or live in close quarters where I am unable to keep a physical distance of 6 feet. You should avoid contact with others outside the home while the person is sick, and quarantine for 14 days after the person who has COVID-19 meets the criteria to end home isolation. Date the person with COVID-19 ends home isolation + 14 days = end of quarantine.
Q21. If a person travels to a state with a mandatory quarantine upon return to NY, but their child, who lives with them, did not travel, does the child also have to quarantine, or can they attend school?
A: No, the child can attend school as long as the traveler in the household remains asymptomatic and does not test positive for COVID-19.
Q22. Does the student have to quarantine if the parent had contact and is quarantining, but does not have symptoms?
A: If a member of the household is quarantining because of either a known exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual or because of travelling, other members of the household can leave the home if that person can quarantine properly from the household members. A quarantined person should:
- Separate themselves from other members of the household
- Use a separate bedroom and bathroom
- Do not share linens, towels, eating utensils, cups and plates
- Limit time in common household areas, such as kitchens.
Q23. What is the timeframe for contract tracing? Will you work with the school immediately? What if we are notified in the evening and siblings may be at school in am.
A: UCDOH will notify relevant school staff upon learning of a positive test for COVID-19 at the school. UCDOH also verifies that individuals reporting a positive COVID test have a positive lab test result in order to proceed with further measures. Labs are required to report to New York State Department of Health any positive test results immediately, and local health departments aim to contact positive individuals within 24 hours of receiving that lab report. Schools should be conducting daily health screenings, including asking whether the child/staff has been in contact with a person who has tested positive.
SHARING OF MEDICAL INFO/PARENTAL PERMISSION
Q24. Do schools need parental permission to send COVID-19 related medical information to DOH?
A: COVID-19 is a reportable communicable disease mandated under the New York State Sanitary Code (10NYCRR 2.10, 2.14), including reporting by schools nurses (10NYCRR 2.12).
While the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) generally requires parental permission for school personnel to disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education record (including health information). But the law provides exceptions allowing disclosure without consent. Under the “health or safety emergency” exception, even though a student’s positive COVID-19 test would be considered personal identifiable information, the school may report this information without parental consent to individuals whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. (See 20 U.S.C. § 6 1232g(b)(1)(I); 34 C.F.R. §§ 99.31(a)(10) and 99.36.) These may include public health officials, school administration, trained medical personnel, school staff, and parents. The “health or safety emergency” exception is limited in time to the period of the emergency and generally does not allow for a blanket release of personal identifiable information from student education records.
See also https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/
Q25. Is there a threshold of infections or absentee rates that would indicate a school should close?
A: The Ulster County Department of Health does not make the decision as to whether a school or classroom should be closed because of COVID-19. That decision rest solely with the school and school district. The Ulster County Commissioner of Health has the legal authority to determine who needs to isolate and quarantine due to COVID-19 positive cases and/or exposure to a COVID-19 case.
Q26. What parameters/conditions/metrics should we use as an early warning sign that positive cases or absenteeism are increasing beyond an acceptable rate?
A: Generally, schools in regions in Phase IV (which the Mid-Hudson entered on July 7th) can reopen if daily infection rate remains below 5% using a 14- Day Average. Schools will close if the regional infection rate raises over 9% after August 1st. (To see the regional rate, go to https://forward.ny.gov/early-warning-monitoring-dashboard)
Q27. With regards to screening, should it be prior to entering the building or before they leave their house?
A: School districts are required to have a protocol in place to perform temperature and health screenings for COVID symptoms. Screenings by the parent/guardian prior to school are preferred. (See the NYSED Reopening Guidance). Symptomatic individuals should not leave their households. Parents/ guardians/ students should be provided with information explaining the importance of monitoring for symptoms and remaining at home whenever symptoms are recognized.
Q28. Previously, if there was a case, we had to close a building for 24 hours. Is that still the case?
A: Typically a 24 hr. time period may be required for disinfection of an area or building. If disinfection can be conducted overnight or during a weekend disruption of classes could be minimized. The CDC and NYSDOH recommend:
- Closing off areas used by a sick person and not using these areas until after cleaning and disinfection has occurred;
- Opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
- Waiting at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfection. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible;
- Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, such as offices, classrooms, bathrooms, lockers, and common areas
Go to the NYSED guidance for more information: http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/reopeningschools/nys-p12-school-reopening-guidance.pdf
Special thanks to the Westchester Department of Health for many of these questions and answers.