Health Department explores test-to-stay program for Oswego County schools

OSWEGO COUNTY — The Oswego County Health Department is working with school districts to implement test-to-stay (TTS) programs in local schools that could minimize absenteeism and learning loss due to COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols.

TTS programs allow students exposed to COVID-19 in schools to remain in the classroom if symptoms do not develop and repeated test results remain negative. TTS programs allow school-associated close contacts, who were masked at the time of possible exposure, to continue in-person learning during their quarantine period regardless of vaccination status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“To implement TTS, large and consistent testing capacities are needed,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “The county Health Department has reached out to school districts to coordinate and address resource needs, including dispersing ELC grant funds for school testing and distributing over-the-counter testing kits.”

Following the release of updated guidance from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) late last week, the county Health Department started working with school districts to determine if supplies are sufficient to administer TTS programs. When testing resources are deemed adequate, the health department plans to allow TTS programs in Oswego County schools.

Under the updated DOH guidance for schools, health departments must assess the local testing resources available and ensure the opportunity to participate in a TTS program is available to each school in the county. Health departments must also make sure schools remain current on reporting of all COVID-19 testing results and have written policies outlining the programs.

TTS programs must test exposed individuals a minimum of three times during the seven-day period following exposure, unless recognition of the exposure is delayed or school breaks and/or weekends intervene, according to DOH guidelines.

Exposed students remaining in school through TTS programs will not be allowed to participate in sports or extracurricular activities and are subject to quarantine outside of school instruction. TTS programs are only applicable to students exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting.

The CDC earlier this month called TTS a valuable tool after research conducted in Chicago and Los Angeles found COVID-19 infections did not increase in schools that used the strategy when compared to the conventional quarantine approach. DOH also announced support for the strategy last week.

More information related to DOH’s TTS update can be found at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/12/testtostay-memo_12-23-21.pdf.

Under New York State Public Health Law, the Oswego County Health Department is the local public health authority regarding the COVID-19 pandemic response within the county of Oswego. The Oswego County Health Department works closely with the New York State Department of Health regarding COVID-19 monitoring, response and reporting.

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