Boosters ordered for health workers

Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW, an at-home rapid-COVID test. Hannah Norman/Kaiser Health News/TNS

PLATTSBURGH — New York’s 800-plus school districts will separately oversee the state’s program to give every student at-home COVID-19 testing kits so students can continue their education in person after the holiday season ends next week, Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul said Wednesday.

New York superintendents and school administrators have the choice to administer thousands of the 15-minute COVID tests at school, or send the self-test kits home with children when they return to class Monday, after the end of the holiday season break.

Officials will send 2 million at-home coronavirus test kits to all school districts statewide, including 22,000 to schools in the north country region, of 37 million kits to be delivered to the state to help fight the winter surge.

School districts will manage it the way they see best,“ Gov. Hochul said Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh. “...the bottom line is that our Test to Stay program says we want children back in schools.”

The governor is staunchly against additional school or business closures due to coronavirus outbreaks as new infections continue to break daily records. The state had 67,090 new COVID infections alone Wednesday — a daily all-time high since the pandemic began in March 2020, and a 65% increase from the day before for an infection rate above 18% for the first time since the initial outbreak.

New cases are expected to continue on the upswing in the days following the Christmas holiday and upcoming New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations. The at-home test kits for New York students will ensure kids can remain in school when classes resume next week or quickly return safely in the event one of their classmates tests positive.

Gov. Hochul spoke with about 500 New York superintendents on a conference call about the program Tuesday to help them devise strategies to keep children learning in the classroom with another sweeping wave of the pandemic.

“There’s different strategies you could employ and one would be when children returned to school, make sure they’re tested,” she said, adding that others will send the tests home with children to use in the event of an outbreak.

When a student tests negative, they can return to in-person learning as opposed to requiring an entire class revert to remote instruction for a 10-day quarantine period, impacting education.

“It is so hard for the parents to get back to work, how they arrange for childcare and it is so disruptive for the children and the teachers as well,” Gov. Hochul continued. “So we want to institute, fully, a Test to Stay program. ... Put (the tests) in their backpack if someone tests positive in their class, let the parents test them the next morning and send them back if it’s negative.”

The program will be in effect by the end of the week before students return to school Monday, the governor said.

The at-home tests will also free up health care personnel to administer the COVID vaccine at state-run sites.

The state will continue to send up to 1 million at-home COVID tests to county emergency managers and 400,000 tests to stock every state-run mass vaccination site with tests to help ease demand amid the winter surge.

“We’re getting 500,000 here, another million here and we’re getting them out, so they’ll be there,” Gov. Hochul said.

Earlier this month, the state ordered 500,000 rapid test kits — with two tests per kit, for a total of 1 million tests in total — to be distributed to all county health departments outside of New York City along with additional N95 masks. The supplies were distributed based on population, according to representatives with the governor’s office.

“Test kits have arrived except for a select few, which were took longer to due shipping delays,” according to the governor’s office.

Counties where tests are delayed have been notified and are expected to receive their allocation of the 500,000 kits by Thursday.

Testing kits will be distributed as they come in with school districts prioritized first, issued primarily through Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, according to the governor’s office.

Distribution will be prioritized by counties with the highest case rates.

At least 3 million test kits are expected to arrive this week with additional kits allotted on a rolling basis as shipments arrive.

A state-run online portal for New Yorkers to order at-home COVID test kits will go live in the coming days.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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