COVID-19 School Reopening Information for Parents and School Personnel

As school districts in Madison County implement their reopening plans based on New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Education school reopening guidance, school personnel and parents naturally have many questions. The following FAQs and resources are intended to provide a broad range of information. 

For school specific information, parents should reach out to their own school district regarding reopening plans. School districts can also direct their questions to the New York State Department of Health at 1-888-364-3065 or via email at schoolquestionscovid@health.ny.gov.

Health Screening

Who is responsible for ensuring that students do not show symptoms of COVID-19 and when should that occur?

It is recommended that a parent/guardian completes the health screening questionnaire on behalf of the student prior to school. All school districts are required to have a protocol in place to perform temperature and health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms (See page 22 and 62 of NYSED Reopening Guidance).

What is the process after the health screening? 

If the parent/guardian responds “no” to all screening questions, then the student can proceed to school. If the student has any symptoms of illness, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, travelled to a high-risk area, or has been identified as a contact to a positive case, they should stay home from school. Use the NYSDOH Pre-K to Grade 12 COVID-19 Toolkit for more information. 

Do students and/or staff coming back from a state identified on Governor Cuomo’s travel advisory or other countries need to quarantine?
Yes, students and staff who are returning to New York from any of the restricted states or international travel need to quarantine for 14 days. They will need to complete the New York State Traveler Health Form or call the Health Department at 315-366-2361.

What type of mask should be worn by students and staff during in-person schooling?
The CDC recommends homemade fabric masks for the general public. Masks should be worn over the mouth AND nose.

PLEASE NOTE that N-95 respirators, masks with exhaust valve, and gaiters are not recommended for routine use by staff and students in schools.

Learn more: https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/2641/General-Information-on-COVID-19#C-19PPE.

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Testing

When should an exposed individual get tested for COVID-19?
If a person in quarantine develops symptoms of COVID-19, it is recommended that they get tested. If they test positive, they will be placed in isolation (for a period determined by the MCDOH). If they test negative, the individual must continue to quarantine for the full 14 days. 

Where can students, faculty and staff get tested for COVID-19?
A list of testing sites can be found on the MCDOH website. Students, faculty and staff can also contact their primary care doctor or call the Upstate COVID-19 Hotline at 315-464-3979 for assistance.

Is there a charge for COVID-19 testing? 
If a student is sent home with symptoms of COVID-19, they should be considered symptomatic by the provider and qualify for free testing. Contact the testing site or your insurance provider to confirm any costs that may be associated with the test. You may also contact your primary care doctor or the Upstate COVID-19 Hotline at 315-464-3979 to ask about testing.

If you need additional help finding a testing site or have questions about cost, please call the Health Department at 315-366-2361. 

Can we assume that students with antibodies are safe from contracting COVID-19?
We currently do not have enough information about the significance of antibody tests. Antibody tests also CANNOT diagnose if an individual has active infectious COVID-19.

Are rapid COVID-19 tests (Antigen or Molecular) reliable?
Rapid tests are useful because they provide results in under an hour. The test result must be interpreted in the context of clinical signs and symptoms. For more information, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/resources/antigen-tests-guidelines.html

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Positive Cases & Contact Tracing

When and how should the school report positive COVID-19 cases to the Madison County Department of Health?
If a school district is notified of a student or staff member’s positive test result, school personnel should immediately contact the MCDOH by calling 315-366-2361. Our business hours are Monday–Friday 8:00-4:00pm. After hours, please send any positive COVID-19 cases to our secure fax at 315-366-2697. Case investigations continue over the weekend. 

What happens when there is a positive case in the school setting? 
After the positive lab result, MCDOH staff contact the individual to conduct a case investigation and place them under an official isolation. During the case investigation, MCDOH will identify any close contacts to the positive case. Please see the MCDOH Contact Tracing Flow Chart below to learn more.

How is a close contact defined? 
Close contacts are individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 for a period of time as determined by the LHD. Those individuals are identified through case investigation by the Madison County Department of Health and then placed under quarantine for 14 days since the last exposure.

MCDOH Contact Tracing Process

Who is responsible for contact tracing for students, faculty, and staff?
MCDOH has primary responsibility for contact tracing; however, effective contact tracing in the school environment is a collaborative effort between the school district and the MCDOH. 

The health department will need the assistance of schools to provide staff and student rosters, schedules, and other information to identify any individuals who came in contact with the positive case. The contact tracer will also identify people outside of the school setting who may have been exposed to the case, and complete the appropriate follow-up.

What is the timeframe for contract tracing? What if we are notified in the evening and siblings may be at school in the morning?
Madison County Department of Health aims to contact positive individuals within 24 hours of receiving a positive lab report.

Schools should be conducting daily health screenings, including asking whether the student/staff has been in contact with a person who has tested positive. If the answer is yes, then the student/staff member should remain at home.

Do schools need parent/guardian permission to send COVID-19 related medical information to MCDOH?
No, COVID-19 is a reportable communicable disease mandated under the New York State Sanitary Code (10NYCRR 2.10, 2.14). See New York State Codes & Regulations and NYSDOH Form

Under emergency regulations at 10 NYCRR 2.6(a), every local health department (LHD) is required to conduct a disease investigation immediately upon receiving a report of a communicable disease. Where a communicable disease case is associated with a school, contract tracing can only be adequately performed when the LHD shares case names with the school. Without this information, the school will not be able to assist the LHD in the adequate and timely identification of contacts, including the names of students, teachers, employees, or anyone else who was physically present at the school, which is critical to control the spread of this disease. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not apply in this context.

Will contact tracers release the name of the positive individual to their contacts?
No. Contact tracers will tell those individuals that they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but they will not disclose the identity of the person. 

How long will contacts of positive COVID-19 cases be required to quarantine?
Individuals who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the date they were last exposed. Every contact will receive an official quarantine order.

When can a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 return to school?
Madison County Department of Health will conduct daily follow-up with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and release individual when appropriate. The individual should follow normal return-to-school protocol AFTER being released from isolation by the Madison County Department of Health. Every positive case will receive an official isolation order and release letter.

Why is the isolation period for an infected person shorter than the quarantine period of a contact?
The time period for incubation is different from the time period of illness and infectiousness. When a person is exposed to COVID-19, it can take up to 14 days for the person to become sick (incubation); therefore, the quarantine period is 14 days. Once the disease develops, a person is infectious from 2 days prior to symptoms appearing to 10 days after the symptoms develop; therefore, the isolation period is at minimum 10 days.

Timeline of Infection

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School Closures

Previously, if there was a case, we had to close a building for 24 hours. Is that still the case?
School buildings of the positive case should be shut down for at least 24 hours for cleaning and disinfecting, and so that contact tracing can be done. The Madison County Department of Health will provide the school district with guidance related to cleaning and disinfecting.

Further closure of school buildings and/or districts will be determined by the school district with consultation from the Madison County Department of Health. The Madison County Public Health Director has the legal authority to determine who needs to isolate and quarantine due to COVID-19 positive cases and/or exposure to a COVID-19 case.

What is the threshold or rate that would trigger school closures?
Generally, schools in regions in Phase IV of NY Forward can reopen if daily infection rate remains below 5% using a 14- Day Average (percent of positive tests). All schools in the region will close if the regional infection rate rises over 9%.

Updated September 23, 2020

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