What is a COVID-19 Micro-Cluster?
Under New York State’s Cluster Action Initiative, micro-clusters are defined as geographic areas – a zip code, census tract, region, etc. – with high COVID-19 infection rates based on positivity rates and daily new cases. Micro-clusters are defined as Yellow, Orange or Red Zones. If a school district is in one of those zones, there will be an impact on schools including mandated onsite COVID-19 testing for consenting students and staff.
What are the metrics for a region to be labeled a Micro-Cluster Yellow, Orange or Red Zone?
A Yellow Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) with a 3% positivity rate over the past 10 days AND the cluster is in the top 10 percent for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and week-over-week growth in daily admissions.
An Orange Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) with a 4% positivity rate over the past 10 days AND 85 percent hospital capacity OR the Department of Health determines an unacceptably high rate of hospital admissions.
A Red Zone is a geographic area (zip code, census tract, etc.) that is 21 days from 90 percent hospital capacity.
How many people need to be tested each week to keep New Lebanon CSD schools open?
In order for New Lebanon CSD to remain open while in a Yellow Zone, it must commit to conducting rapid screening tests on 20 percent of the in-person students and staff over a two-week period. Students and staff members will be randomly chosen from a pool of individuals who have given consent. If New Lebanon CSD enters an Orange Zone, we will need to continue to test new students and staff at a rate of 20 percent per month. If New Lebanon CSD enters a Red Zone, we will need to continue to test new students and staff at a rate of 30 percent per month.
What test would be used in schools and who would administer the tests?
New York State is providing school districts with COVID-19 rapid tests. Specifically, they will be providing Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test, which will be administered by school nurses to students for whom we have received prior parent/guardian consent. The test involves inserting a small swab, like a Q-Tip, into the lowermost portion of the nostril. This is a quick nasal swab test of both nostrils and is NOT the deep swab nostril test that is performed at medical facilities.
How do I consent to have my student(s) tested at school?
You can give consent for school-based COVID-19 testing by filling out the Consent for Student COVID-19 Testing Form by 1/11/2021. This consent form will be sent to your email on the afternoon of 1/5/2021.
Why is the rapid antigen test being used?
The rationale for using the rapid test instead of the PCR test is that testing will be done on students and staff who are asymptomatic. Rapid tests detect protein fragments specific to the Novel Coronavirus and are non-invasive for students & staff (ie: not deep sinus tests). PCR tests detect RNA (genetic material) that is specific to the virus and are the “deep sinus” variety, plus they have a longer turnaround time than the rapid test. The rapid test results are available within minutes.
How do you decide which students and staff to test?
Students and staff will be randomly chosen for testing. They would only be chosen from the group of students and staff who have already consented.
Can I be present when my child is tested?
Parents/guardians may not be present for onsite testing as we must limit the number of people within our school buildings for safety reasons.
What if I prefer to get my child tested offsite?
You have the option to get your child tested by your health care provider or at any testing site. In order for those tests to count toward the mandated NYS 20% threshold, results need to be provided to your school nurse within a week. If it is your intention to test offsite, please notify the school and indicate when your child will be tested.
If I do not consent to testing, will my student be forced to switch to full remote instruction?
No, your child can continue to be part of the in-person learning model as long as we have enough volunteers for testing. However, if we do not reach at least the 20% mandated benchmark, all students may need to switch full remote instruction.
If I don’t consent now, will I have an opportunity to reconsider?
Yes. Depending on the number of parents who initially consent to onsite testing, we may need to ask for more volunteers for future testing if/when the district is designated as being in a micro-cluster zone. If that happens, we will send further communications asking families to consent.
Can parents/guardians or family members get tested too?
No, we will only have enough tests to accommodate 20% of our in-school population.
What happens if a student tests positive?
If your student tests positive while at school, you will be notified immediately, asked to quarantine and follow up with your health care provider for PCR testing. In addition, we will share information with the Columbia County Department of Health.