ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health is rolling out with a school-based COVID-19 testing program.
This is a new initiative designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. It is also a way to maximize the time students spend learning in the classroom.
There are two programs in the new school-based testing procedure initiative: screening testing and proximate testing.
Screening testing, which was recommended by the CDC, focuses on reducing the spread of COVID-19. It involves weekly tests of a random sample of a school's students and staff.
The second program, proximate testing, is implemented when a classroom has a positive COVID-19 case. Students and staff from those settings who do not need to quarantine under current New York State Department of Health Guidance, but were in the classroom, will be offered a COVID-19 PCR test 3 to 5 days after that exposure.
University at Buffalo department of medicine professor and chief, Dr. Thomas Russo said, "I think this is important because it adds another layer of protection on top of the mitigation plan to help keep our students safe."
Erie County Health officials stated testing could mean the difference between a few scattered cases in a school and a full-blown COVID-19 outbreak and closure. Because children under 12 are not yet eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, health officials said it is crucial to have other prevention strategies.
Doctor Russo said, "To maximize safety and prevent infections in the classroom, a multilayer protection plan is needed. This includes masks, optimal ventilation, hand hygiene and distancing. The addition of testing on top of these existing measures will further enhance protecting out children from getting infected at school."Specimens will be gathered through a swab test inside the mouth for students and staff to sell-collect.
Medical professionals from Buffalo Home Care, Inc. will supervise sample collection and transport to quadrant biosciences, a local lab. Doctor Russo said, "Mitigation measures such as testing a mask use will not be in place indefinitely. Once we get on the other side of this pandemic, hopefully, we can get back to a closer sense of normalcy."
The Erie County Department of Health said the COVID-19 tests will be provided at no cost to families or staff.
Parents will need to give verbal or online consent for their child to get tested.