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NYC's senior health advisor on how testing and tracing will work at schools

Posted at 6:52 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 18:52:34-04

NEW YORK CITY — COVID-19 testing and tracing will be done at NYC public schools on teachers and students this upcoming school year — an added layer of protection, in addition to masks, sanitizing, social distancing and proper air flow in schools.

“The sample is going to give us how good we’re doing in keeping covid out of the schools as well as identifying people who may not have been diagnosed,” Dr. Jay Varma, NYC’s Senior Health Advisor, told PIX11 News Friday. “On the day testing occurs we are going to set up at an area inside the school, maybe outside and we will have people there to assist in collecting the specimens.”

A more painless, approved swab test will be taken.

“The one we’re going to do is a much shorter swab, approved for what’s called home collection kits, not the specimen that goes deep into the nose.”

The amount of students and staff tested will be determined by the number of students enrolled in blended learning at each school.

At schools with fewer than 500 students, 20% will be tested; 15% at schools with 500-999 and 10% at schools that have 1,000 or more.

According to Dr. Varma, results are expected within 24 hours and if a student or teacher tests positive, they, their doctors and the city will be notified simultaneously and contact tracing will then begin.

“What that’s going to help you do is help us have a window into the percentage of infections that may be occurring in any given school.”

Especially for those who may have the virus, but aren’t showing signs, the free random testing is something the United Federation of Teachers has been pushing for and the city agreed on earlier this week to avoid a teacher’s strike.

“If they don’t want to be tested, teachers will go on mandatory unpaid leave and kids will go on automative remote learning,” said UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr.

NYC would be the first major school district to reopen schools with the testing system.

City officials are confident it will work, because of the city’s low infection rate.

“The single most important thing we learned from around the world — you only open schools when you have good control of the epidemic in the community.”

UFT says while COVID-19 tests for teachers and students aren’t mandatory before the first day of school, they are highly recommended.

The first day of school is now Sepember 21. Random testing in schools begins October 1. The teachers union says it doesn’t start right away because they want to give parents enough time to sign consent forms.