Last week, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) released new COVID guidance for school districts across the state. This included a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. School superintendents met with county departments of health to discuss the latest guidance and how it will impact our students and staff. Below is a summary of the recent changes that are outlined in the documents linked above.
As noted last week, masks are now optional in school buildings and on school buses. However, the new state guidance includes some exceptions to the “mask optional” policy, such as:
- Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, or show symptoms but are not tested, must wear a mask in school and on buses upon returning to school from isolation during Days 6-10 after COVID-19 infection or onset of symptoms.
- Local health departments have discretion to reinstate universal masking in schools if new cases and hospital admissions related to COVID-19 rise above certain benchmarks (see p. 2 of the guidance document).
Although not required, NYSDOH recommends students, staff, and teachers wear masks when:
- They feel more comfortable wearing a mask for personal reasons.
- They were in the same room within the school as someone diagnosed with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer and were thus exposed or potentially exposed (this applies for group contact tracing, which is the method of contact tracing Cairo-Durham will use moving forward).
- They are known to have been exposed to COVID in any setting within the previous 10 days.
- They are moderately-to-severely immunocompromised and have discussed the need to mask with their healthcare provider(s).
We understand that all transitions can be stressful, and some students may experience anxiety because of this latest change. Please know that our school counselors are available for support at any time. Also please be reminded that we expect everyone to continue practicing civility and tolerance surrounding the personal choices of others.
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES / ATHLETICS
The guidance applies to school-administered after school and extracurricular activities, including athletics, in the same way it applies to instructional periods. Therefore, masks will no longer be required for these activities.
Weekly testing of unvaccinated school staff will continue. These staff members may opt out of mandatory testing if they provide documentation of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
To summarize, the only requirements outlined in the new guidance are: 1) masks are temporarily required when individuals return to school after testing positive, 2) unvaccinated staff must be tested weekly, and 3) the District must continue to report cases daily to the NYS COVID Report Card. All other items within the state guidance document are recommendations. We will continue existing COVID mitigation strategies, including cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing when possible and increased ventilation in classrooms. Students and staff are also encouraged to continue practicing healthy hygiene and to stay home when sick.
Thank you for your continued patience, cooperation, and understanding.