I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving break and your children returned to school recharged and ready for the last month of 2021. Thank you for sharing your children with us. We enter December facing a surge in COVID cases along with the threat of the new Omicron variant. The first confirmed U.S. case of this coronavirus variant was detected in California.
Additionally, Governor Hochul announced five cases in New York City last evening. Initial reports suggest that the variant has a significant number of mutations that have led some to fear that it may be able to evade immune systems or COVID vaccinations and drive a new wave of cases.
Firm answers could take weeks. In the meantime, the Governor has declared a state of emergency. According to the Governor, “this action was necessary to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages ahead of potential spikes in cases this winter.” The state of emergency begins today and will be reassessed in mid-January.
We will continue to monitor the situation in cooperation with the local departments of health, superintendents, and others. Please do not overreact to the emergence of a new variant. There is still much we do not know.
Officials say the best defense is to continue our protocols. We ask for your continued assistance with our layered mitigation strategies – mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing, completing our daily health screening form, and keeping your child home if you are sick. We are also asking students and staff to be tested if they exhibit any of the COVID symptoms. Please visit the CDC’s website for a full listing of symptoms.
Since September 2020, we have consistently communicated to our families when someone in our BOCES has tested positive for COVID-19. Starting today, we have moved away from mass email notifications to staff and families and daily website postings for positive COVID cases at specific buildings. Due to the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant, and the positivity rate within our community, notification of each individual case through email is not sustainable. Instead, we will post a weekly summary of all positive cases on our website. This page will be updated on Friday afternoons. Please visit https://www.questar.org/weeklycovidtracker/ for our COVID Tracker.
This is consistent with what some of our school districts have done. Please note that this will not change how we approach contact tracing. All individuals identified as a close contact to a positive case will continue to receive immediate and direct communication from Questar III.
For a more frequent update on confirmed positive cases, New York State has reopened the School COVID-19 Report Card, where positive test results are reported daily. We are required to disclose positive test results to the state to be included in this dashboard, and we are committed to accurately reporting any positive test within our BOCES as required by the state. You can access the report card on the NYSDOH website here.
As I have shared previously, general surveillance and Point-of-care testing will begin shortly. Only students whose parents or guardians consent to screening testing will be tested every week. Point-of-care testing will also be conducted using rapid molecular testing involving the same shallow swab as the rapid antigen test. This will provide a quick result in the case of a student or staff member who began presenting symptoms while at school. The Point-of-Care testing is intended to provide convenience to families so that they do not have to seek out a test outside of school.
While I have previously shared parent consent forms for student COVID testing. We are asking parents and guardians to please indicate their consent for these tests. You can find the form on our website. You may consent to one, both or none. We have updated the form so that it is fillable and can be returned via email. Instructions accompany the form on our website. Please return by December 6th.
Have a great weekend.
Chief Academic Officer
Questar III BOCES