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Advocacy group calls for “Test To Stay” instead of student quarantine

"Too much damage has been done to the kids"
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Posted at 5:27 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 02:56:01-04

CLARENCE, NY (WKBW) — Some states are taking a different approach to keep students in classrooms even with COVID cases.

States like, California, Illinois, Kansas and Massachusetts have adopted what is called a Test To Stay model, relying on COVID testing instead of quarantine.

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Tarja Parssian, Clarence school parent, with Western New York Education Alliance.

“And it's being used as a tool to keep healthy kids in school, which is fantastic, and we need to see this happening in New York State,” Tarja Parssian, Clarence school parent.

Parssian with the WNY Education Alliance, fighting to keep kids in the classrooms as the COVID pandemic continues.

The organization set a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul asking her administration to “take a different approach” to end school closures and quarantines of students and adopt the “Test To Stay” model.

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WNY Education Alliance issued a letter to Governor Hochul.

“So what Test To Stay would allow to happen for the kids to take a rapid test and if they are asymptomatic and produce a negative for a series of days they are allowed to remain in school,” Parssian explained. “Policy can change be changed — we need to see flexibility.”

Schools in Erie County must follow the recommended quarantine policy from the county health department.

Right now, if two students test positive for COVID, a whole classroom is shut down, even if other students weren't in close contact and those students can be in quarantine for up to ten days.

Parssian say Erie County's quarantine rules are “more” restrictive than guidelines laid out by the CDC and New York State.

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Tarja Parssian, Clarence school parent.

“There just can't be an excuse to keep school closed for a third year in a row — too much damage has been done to the kids,” Parssian said.

“It’s important to note that this particular process is presently not recommended by the CDC,” commented Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases, Jacobs School of Medicine, University at Buffalo.

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Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases, Jacobs School of Medicine, in Zoom interview.

“There's a very specific importance when you quarantine people,” Buckley asked Dr. Russo.

“Decisions, such as who to quarantine and what process are involved, are handled at the state or potentially the county public health level, so the state has the ability to make that decision if they want to implement such a plan,” Dr. Russo replied.

Dr. Russo tells 7 Eyewitness News Test To Stay is an “interesting concept”, but comes with logistical challenges.

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Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases, Jacobs School of Medicine, in Zoom interview.

“You need to have the availability to be able to do these rapid tests on a daily basis and obviously someone needs to pay for these tests which may or may not be possible depending on the school system,” Dr. Russo remarked.

“If there's a lack of funding or inability to procure rapid testing — Western New York Education Alliance stands ready to help that process,” Parssian responded.

The Erie County Department of Health says it is working closely with schools on testing, taking random samples of 10-percent of unvaccinated students and staff and for those who were in classrooms where there was a positive COVID case.

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Classroom desks.

But Parssian says she believes the county is still handling the situation likes it’s March of 2020.

“What we are dealing with now is simply an information problem — vaccines are out — testing is available and we need to see it start being used to keep kids in school,” Parssian remarked. “Too much damage has been done to the kids.”

Transmission rates, due to delta variant, increased among children 5 to 17 years old in the county, with a positivity rate of more than 6-percent for the week ending September 18.