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NYC unveils testing, tracing and prevention protocols for public schools

Students learn robotics, programming skills at Brooklyn school
Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 16:37:26-04

NEW YORK CITY — The mayor and schools chancellor announced new health and safety protocols Thursday for children in New York City public schools this fall.

The announcement include testing and tracing protocols for the entire public school system, with the governor's Friday deadline for districts to submit their plans looming.

“We are doing everything in our power to keep kids healthy while ensuring they are getting the education they deserve. These rigorous test and trace protocols will keep our students and staff safe as we start off this new school year,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“New Yorkers did the incredibly difficult work reducing the risk posed by COVID-19, and as a result we’re in a better position than any other city in the country to safely resume in-person education under the current conditions and with clear, consistent health protocols,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “The safety and health of our school communities is always our first priority – before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic – and we will remain vigilant in monitoring health conditions this fall while driving toward academic excellence for every student.”

The Department of Education will purchase supplies like face coverings for students, teachers, and staff; disinfectant; hand sanitizer; and electrostatic sprayers.

Repairs and adjustments will be made by school leaders and facilities staff to ensure safe conditions, the memo said.

As for employees, all staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days leading up the first day of school, the announcement said.

These personnel will have priority access for free testing at 34 city-run testing locations, with tests provided with expedited results. This testing is also available for families citywide.

When school buildings reopen, the following daily prevention and tracing requirements will be put in place :

  • An isolation room for students with symptoms with a dedicated staff member or health professional
  • Physical distancing and required facial coverings
  • Cleaning throughout the day and nightly disinfecting
  • Clear communication with families and school community

If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home, the plan reads. If their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, they're asked to get tested.

"If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their parents or guardians," according to the memo. "Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building."

What about students or staff that begin showing symptoms outside the classroom?

"Whether symptoms begin at home or in school, there will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread," the announcement said. "A positive case can be reported to a school by a staff member, a parent, or a student. A positive confirmed case will trigger an investigation by the NYC Test + Trace Corps and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine close contacts within the school. Schools will communicate to all families and students within school any time a case is laboratory confirmed."

In the event that there is a lab-confirmed case at a city school, all students and teachers in that class are assumed close contacts and will be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure to that case.

There will also be an investigation into the risk of exposure to the larger school community.

Based on the outcome of the investigation, guidelines would be distributed.

The plan revealed potential outcomes and responses to hypothetical investigation conclusions.

Conclusion of InvestigationDuring InvestigationPost Investigation
1 confirmed caseClose Classroom, transition to remote learning

Classroom remains closed for 14 days; students and staff in close contact with positive case self-quarantine for 14 days.

At least 2 cases linked together in school, same classroomClose Classroom, transition to remote learning

Classroom remains closed for 14 days; students and staff in close contact with positive cases self-quarantine for 14 days

At least 2 cases linked together in school, different classroomsClose school building, transition to remote learning

Classrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined, additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school (e.g., the locker room)

At least 2 cases linked together by circumstances outside of school (i.e., acquired infection by different setting and source)Close school building, transition to remote learningSchool opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 14 days
At least 2 cases not linked but exposure confirmed for each outside of school settingClose school building, transition to remote learningSchool opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 14 days
Link unable to be determinedClose school building, transition to remote learningClose school for 14 days

Whenever a student is isolating at home, they can engage in remote learning if they're feeling up to it.

Whenever a student is isolating or quarantining at home, the expectation is that they continue engaging with learning remotely if they are feeling well enough. If a school is closed, the school will communicate by 6 P.M. on the night before about the status of opening the next morning, based on the status of the investigation. A school building will not reopen without confirmation from public health experts that it is safe.

Carranza went into detailed the options for families the 2020-21 school year in a virtual town hall Tuesday night. They include: blended learning, remote learning and going back to socially distanced classrooms fully.

The city wants parents to make a decision by August 7.