Testing requirement changes for schools in orange zone

"The schools are safer than the surrounding community"
Posted at 6:19 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 16:33:22-05

WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WKBW) — A new state strategy is being offered to schools as the fight against COVID ramps up once again.

“All the testing says schools are safer than the surrounding community,” declared Governor Andrew Cuomo.

During Monday’s COVID statewide briefing, Governor Cuomo pointed out COVID numbers are not high in schools.

Cuomo said schools can close if rates are lower than the state’s threshold, but advice against it, especially for K-through 8 and special education students.

“Our advice is don’t — we believe in keeping — especially K-8 open, the schools are safer than the surrounding community,” Cuomo stated.

Schools in orange or red zones can stay open but must test weekly.


“The state mandate is 20-percent (orange) — over a month — red zone 30-percent over a month - on a rolling basis,” explained Cuomo.

Schools can also conduct pool testing.

Schools in Erie County’s orange zone were forced back into remote learning.

But the Christian Central Academy in Williamsville conducted mandatory testing last Friday and reopened for in-person learning Monday.

Dr. Stuart Chen, president, Christian Central Academy, in a Zoom interview.

“We had 211 tests conducted of which 210 were negative and one was positive,” replied Dr. Stuart Chen, president. “The tests themselves, conducted by the school’s Limited Services Laboratory (LSL) partner, produced a positivity result of less than 0.5%, which is well under the positivity rate elsewhere in New York State and especially Erie County.”

Chen said his school mobilized the testing clinic and tested 40-students and staffers per hour on Friday.

But school parent Nancy Mayer of Lancaster said she believes the school pushed testing too soon after the thanksgiving holiday.

Nancy Mayer of Lancaster, school parent in a Zoom interview.

“If people did get together for thanksgiving — and there was a COVID positive — they wouldn't test positive on the following day or today,” Mayer noted.

“As for the timing the incubation period that may lead to an up-tick post thanksgiving I think is accommodated in our subsequent rounds of testing,” stated Chen.

But Chen noted that any children from school families who traveled over the holiday must be quarantined and tested before returning to the classroom.

“Those who are returning from out of state are being quarantined according to the state guidelines before they can rejoin the population,” Chen said.

Christian Central Academy in Williamsville.

But Mayer said she is keeping her daughter, Rose, a senior, home for remote learning for now.

Mayer has another child at home for remote learning who is at a high risk for being exposed to COVID

“If I’m going to put my daughter back into school I would like to know how many cases there are,” remarked Mayer.

As of Monday state COVID-19 School Report dashboard shows the school has four COVID cases, but Mayer said she was only notified by the school of two cases in an email, but never received notification on the other two cases.

“Even if Rose did not have personal contact with somebody I would want to know that there was a case even if we weren’t the ones contacted by a contact tracer,” Mayer said.

But Dr. Chen responded saying the state's dashboard has been corrected.

Christian Central Academy in Williamsville.

The school plans to hold another round of testing on December 7th. The school will partner with Niagara Apothecary to conduct the testing. Dr. Chen said at this time they are expecting to conduct 25% testing.

“If, in our judgement, caution would call for a higher percentage to be tested each week — I consider what he had to say today to empower us — to do that,” Chen replied.