Yellow & Orange Zone Plans
As I write this column positive COVID-19 cases are surging in Erie County and nationwide. We have also seen an uptick of the number of positive cases in our schools. As a result, Governor Cuomo has initiated a new micro-cluster strategy that designates COVID-19 hot spots as yellow, orange, or red zones. The micro-cluster approach relies on metrics to pinpoint epicenters of viral outbreaks.
On November 9, 2020, the Governor declared almost all of Erie County a yellow zone. The designation placed restrictions on mass gatherings, dining, worship, businesses, and schools. On November 14, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) revised the school restrictions. In order to remain open to in-person learning in yellow zones, schools must test 20% of in-person students, faculty, and staff over the two-week period immediately following the announcement of a yellow zone designation.
We have been approved to be a Limited Service Laboratory (LSL), which grants the district a license to administer COVID-19 tests as well as the ability to order test kits directly from the NYSDOH. The tests shipped last week. We are ready and able to test out of a yellow zone.
On November 18, 2020, the Governor designated a large portion of Erie County as an orange zone. It is possible, but highly improbable, for the district to test back into opening schools for in-person instruction when designated in an orange zone. Doing so requires that we initially test 100% of faculty, staff and students who attend each school in-person. The initial testing for all individuals must be completed within 7 days. If the school reopened, 25% of the in-person population must be tested each week. If the 25% random sampling generates 9 or more positive cases, or achieves a positivity rate of 3% or higher, then the school will be required to close.
If we meet the conditions for testing, Clarence Middle School would serve as our single central test administration site. Our plan is to have nurses administer drive-thru tests. The consent for testing form will be posted online and can be submitted with an electronic signature. Parents and/or staff members will pull up to the front loop at CMS and a nurse will swab inside both nostrils using a small, Q-tip size gauze. The test will be taken inside the building to our logistical hub, where another nurse will log the result. It will take approximately 15 minutes for the test to yield a result. We will call any individual who tests positive and text message individuals who test negative.
Geoffrey M. Hicks, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools