Governor Hochul: New York needs rapid-testing in schools ASAP


By Andrew Harris, 9/24/21

If the first three weeks of the school year are any indication of what lies ahead; students, parents, teachers, and school administrators are in for a rough ride. After the joys of parenting and schooling last year, it seems that our education system was not taking notes and planning for this test.

Almost every family seems to have already gone through this routine, so lets compare the before covid with the current reality:

Pre-covid: School starts for the year, the kids start all getting common colds and flu after a few weeks of hallways, classrooms, and sports. It might result in a day or two off school, or it might be a spoonful of cough suppressant after breakfast and a box of tissues in the bookbag. Even if your student was out for ten days with the swine flu, they didn’t need to be tested to return.

Current Predicament: School starts for the year, virus mitigation efforts in place, the kids start all getting common colds and flu after a few weeks of hallways, classrooms, and sports. They might take a day off school, but they can’t return unless they can provide a negative covid-19 test from a PCI test(over the counter won’t cut the mustard.) Because of the demand for testing, the results don’t come back for 2-4 days. Even if your child just had a migraine headache, they are likely to miss a week of school waiting for results. If your allergic child comes to school sneezing, or with a cough, or a headache, or food poisoning: Many schools will send the kids home and require a Covid-test to return.

The equation that turns one day of convalescence at home for a student into a week of missed school is evidence of system failure. But this failure can be corrected by the New York State Education Department and our state leadership: Supply all schools with rapid test kits

As one local school administrator explains, “We don’t have enough rapid tests to screen the staff who refuse vaccination!”

Another local leader explained that, “Health providers prefer the more accurate PCR tests. “

The well known superintendent of a Allegany County school district had this to say about the question:

” Some schools do and are sharing with other schools. Some schools did, but the “used by” date has passed. The rest of the schools were waiting to see what was happening before completing the Initial Limited Service Laboratory Application and paying the $200 fee.”

Governor Hochul please consider a different sort of mandate to manage this pandemic in our public education system. The masks help, vaccines help, but the key is the availability of rapid testing at the school level. Every school needs to be able to advise students who have missed a day of school(due to illness), to arrive early for a rapid test. When kids are exposed to a known positive case, they should all be rapid tested as soon as possible, not quarantined pending results in 48-72 hours.

The approach seems to be working in Massachusetts as reported by a great article by Vox:

“Then there’s Massachusetts: The state adopted a test-to-stay protocol for participating districts at the beginning of the 2021–22 school year. If a student in those districts tests positive for Covid-19, close contacts of that student no longer have to automatically quarantine. Instead, they can continue coming to school, provided they take a rapid test each day for seven days. If they test positive or develop symptoms, they’ll need to quarantine. Otherwise, they don’t need to miss class.”

Governor, New York needs to take this approach and with rapid speed. The alternative is mass absences and forcing working parents to lose a week of work if they keep Johnny home with a sore throat or hay fever. The consequences are continued labor shortages and an education that is disjointed at best. More teachers will quit and more parents will resort to home schooling, abandoning the part time job. These tests are the only foreseeable way to create some semblance of normalcy for students, educators, and working families.

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