County officials from across the Hudson Valley are helping schools reopen including issuing a Frequently Asked Questions guide.

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On Thursday, the Orange County Health Department released what officials say is an informative Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide that will assist Orange County’s 17 school district in addressing COVID-19 health safety parameters and contact tracing requirements for schools to consider while reopening this fall.

The FAQ provides answers to their specific questions health officials have received from school administrators and parents throughout Orange County, officials say.

Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman said schools should use the FAQ guidance to help develop their health and safety plans for reopening that are required by the New York State Department of Education.

Below is the FAQ guidance provided by the Orange County Health Department:

Q1: When and how should we report positive COVID-19 cases to OCDOH?
A. Immediately notify OCDOH if a student, faculty, staff member or volunteer tests positive for COVID-19 at 845-291-2330, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.

Q2. Are schools responsible for contact tracing for students, faculty and staff?
A. Contact tracing is an important component to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Effective contact tracing is a joint collaborative effort which will require the assistance of schools in providing staff and student lists, schedules, and other information to identify exposed individuals. Hence, it is imperative to confidentially maintain sign in logs with full contact information (name, address, phone number, e-mail address) of all individuals presenting to any of the facilities. See attachment for an example sign-in log and a copy of the Orange County contact tracing spreadsheet for schools.

Q3. Will contact tracers release the name of the positive individual to their contacts?
A. No. Contact tracers will tell potentially infected persons that they were exposed. They will not disclose the identity of the person to whom they were exposed.

Q4. How long will contacts to positive COVID-19 cases be required to quarantine?
A. Individuals who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the day they were last exposed. Please note that a negative test does not release an individual from quarantine.

Q5. When should an exposed individual get tested for COVID-19?
A. Testing after exposure is a decision between the individual and their primary care provider (PCP). The exposed individual must contact their PCP to schedule testing. Exposed individuals must remain on quarantine until being tested and must immediately return to quarantine following such testing. If a person tests positive, they will be placed in isolation (for a period determined by the OCDOH). Even if the test is negative, the individual must continue to quarantine for the full 14 days.

Q6. Where can students, faculty and staff get tested for COVID-19?
A. Students, families, faculty and staff are encouraged to contact their primary care provider (PCP) first to schedule testing, in order to preserve the continuity of care. A list of testing sites can be found on the OCDOH health website found here: https://www.orangecountygov.com/1949/Anti-Body-Testing or by calling the Orange County COVID-19 Hotline at 845-291-2330.

Q7. Is there a charge for COVID-19 tests?
A. Insurance information may be requested at some testing facilities including healthcare provider offices and pharmacies. There is no out of pocket charge for COVID-19 tests conducted at state-run facilities. The closest state-run facility is Rockland Anthony Wayne Recreational Area Palisades Parkway located at Palisades Interstate Pkwy Exit 17, Bear Mountain, NY 10911. More information can be found here: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you.

Q8. When can a person who has tested positive return to school? Is it the same process for students, faculty and staff?
A. An individual who tested positive must obtain written clearance from their primary care provider (PCP), that complies with CDC guidance for the return to school of students, faculty, and staff following illness or diagnosis of a confirmed case of COVID-19 clearance criteria include but may not be limited to the following CDC guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html.

Q9. Can we assume that students with antibodies are safe from contracting COVID-19?
A. No. We do not have enough information about whether antibodies protect individuals from re-infection and how long antibodies may provide protection. Antibody tests also CANNOT diagnose if an individual has active infectious COVID-19. A positive result can mean you had infection with COVID-19 in the past.

Q10. Are rapid tests (Antigen or Molecular) reliable?
A. Rapid tests provide results in under an hour, though they have a high rate of false negatives. Negative rapid antigen tests which are the most commonly performed rapid COVID-19 test cannot rule out COVID-19 and should be followed up by a molecular test. Please see the attached FDA Coronavirus Testing Basics factsheet or find it here: https://www.fda.gov/media/140161/download.

Q11. Do individuals coming back from vacation from states on Governor Cuomo’s travel advisory need to quarantine?
A. Yes, individuals who are coming to New York from any of the states on the travel advisory need to quarantine for 14 days. The most up-to-date list of states is available here: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory.

Q12. What qualifies as an exposure to COVID-19? How does the DOH define “close or proximate contact? The CDC suggests 6 feet or less for a duration of 15 minutes or more. Does that hold true here?
A. Close contact is defined (by NYSDOH and Johns Hopkins) as being within 6 feet of a person displaying symptoms of or testing positive for COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer. Close contacts will be required to quarantine. Proximate contact is defined as being in the same enclosed environment such as an office, but greater than 6 feet from a person displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or testing positive for COVID-19. OCDOH will determine if a proximate contact should be under quarantine.

Q13. Why is the isolation period for an infected person shorter than the quarantine period of a contact?
A. 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 anywhere from 2-14 days for the person to develop the disease (incubation), hence the quarantine period is 14 days. Once the disease develops, a person is infectious from 2 days prior to symptoms appearing to, at minimum, 10 days after the symptoms develop, hence the isolation period is at minimum 10 days, but can be longer.

Q14. Can you leave quarantine for a COVID-19 test or does your quarantine start all over after you went out to get that test?
A. Yes, you can leave quarantine for a COVID-19 test; however, during travel to and from testing you should minimize contact with others, wear a mask/ face covering, observe distancing and utilize private means for transportation. No, your quarantine period does not re-start. However, even if you test negative, you must continue to quarantine until the full 14 days from the last exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual.

Q15. In the event there is a large exposure, what is the plan if the DOH gets overwhelmed with the case load once school starts?
A. The Orange County Department of Health has been working in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health on contact tracing, using a joint system for tracking cases and contacts. This system also allows for both the county and state to have increased capacity of contact tracing should it be needed.

Q16. How do those testing positive at sites or who live outside of Orange County or NYS integrate into the NYSDOH systems?
A. Lab reports from ‘out of jurisdiction’ are transferred and reported to the state/county of residence (of record) of the individual. For instance, if an Orange County resident tests at a location in New Jersey, that lab result is reported to the New Jersey Department of Health, who transfers it to New York State Department of Health, and subsequently the Orange County Department of Health. It is imperative to make sure your current phone and address are correct at a testing location, so the results can be reported to the correct jurisdiction and local health department can follow up with communication.

Q17. If a child tests positive and has a sibling in the school, should the school keep the sibling out of school?
A. Yes. Unless the siblings reside in separate households, the sibling must be placed on quarantine which would mean that the sibling should not attend school during the required period for quarantine.

Q18. If a student/staff member is home on quarantine and then develops symptoms, please explain how that impacts attendance to school/work. What does it mean for the siblings that may have been continuing to go to school?
A. If a student or staff tests positive, their household members will likely be considered close contacts and will need to quarantine. Students or staff testing positive will require isolation for a minimum of 10 days.

Q19. If someone has to quarantine and has a family member in isolation is it 10 days + 14 days for the quarantine. Or would it be 4 more days?
A. Determining quarantine periods can vary depending on the particular situation; the specifics will be determined in conversation with the Orange County Department of Health case investigators and contact tracers. Here are some sample scenarios

CLICK HERE to view more of the FAQ guidance.

On Monday, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro reiterated Dutchess County’s commitment to assisting districts with their health and safety planning, as well as its testing procedures and policies, and contact tracing plan for local schools.

“Preparing for the opening of the new school year has been a collaborative process, and Dutchess County has played an active role is ensuring local districts’ leadership has been informed each step in that process. In addition to providing constant communication, hosting virtual training for district staff, planning for student and staff testing, and preparing for contact tracing, Dutchess County will continue to play an active role in assisting districts provide safe environments for both students and staff once the 2020-21 school year begin," Molinaro said in a press release.

DBCH’s Rapid Response Team is available to work with schools to conduct contact tracing when local schools report a positive COVID-19 case, as it has been since local colleges have opened, officials say. DBCH has worked with local school districts on the protocol for symptomatic or positive COVID-19 students or staff to ensure the contact tracing process can immediately begin to prevent spread.

“DBCH staff has worked tirelessly for months to prepare for the beginning of the new school year, and we look forward to implementing the plans we have developed to provide the safest educational environment possible. Our department will continue to work with local school districts to ensure safety protocols are followed to assure the health and well-being of students and staff," DBCH Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian said.

Additionally, DBCH has taken proactive steps to assist districts, including:

  • Providing school districts with information about available testing resources throughout the county. DBCH maintains an active list of all available testing sites located throughout the County, including the most up-to-date list of providers offering testing, specific criteria for testing at each site and information including locations, methods of contacting each site, hours of operation, methods of testing and types of tests available. Those testing resources are available and maintained on Dutchess County’s website
  • Additionally, Dutchess County worked with Pulse MD Urgent Care to establish a preferred client relationship offering rapid testing for students and school staff with preliminary results in approximately 15 minutes. Pulse MD will offer a separate virtual scheduling que for school nurses to directly schedule visits for testing. These virtual scheduling portals will be established for each interested school district.
  • Rapid antigen tests can provide a positive result within 15 minutes confirming a positive case and allow for DBCH to partner with schools on rapid response contact tracing to control potential spread. (Note: currently negative results will still require traditional swab tests to confirm all negative rapid test results until improved technology is more widely available.)
  • Investigating feasibility of bulk purchase of rapid testing supplies for schools to consider purchasing and administering by medical personnel on site. Ulster County has inquired about a similar bulk purchase should Dutchess County establish a connection to acquire reliable and proven rapid test kits.
  • Hosting online training for school nurses, which included, among other protocols, guidelines for how schools are to:
    • Handle students and staff who present with symptoms of COVID-19
    • Notify DBCH about positive cases and what information to report
    • Allow an individual who has displayed symptoms of COVID-19 to return to school