Important Information on COVID Testing Protocols
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON COVID TESTING PROTOCOLS
Dear Oswego CSD Community,
I am writing to share an update on COVID-19 testing protocols that the district will be enacting in the near future (some of which begins this week and the rest begins within the next two to three weeks).
As many of you are aware, recently the New York State Department of Health and our Governor, Kathy Hochul, enacted new regulations that require COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated teachers and school staff. To add to this, the Department of Health also released guidance, which is designed to ensure COVID-19 testing in schools for unvaccinated students.
Specifically, this guidance asserts that all schools must have capacity to offer unvaccinated staff and students screening testing at least once a week and that they have the capacity to either provide diagnostic testing or refer any student or staff member who is symptomatic, or has been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 to an outside agency.
What are screening tests?
Screening tests look for individual infections in a group even if there is no reason to suspect those individuals are infected. Screening involves testing asymptomatic individuals who do not have a known or suspected exposure to COVID-19.
What are diagnostic tests?
Diagnostic tests identify current infections at the individual level and are performed when a person has signs or symptoms of infection, or when a person is asymptomatic but has a recently known or suspected COVID-19 exposure.
Which type of these tests (screening and diagnostic) will our district provide?
Per NYS regulations, our district will be providing free screening tests for unvaccinated employees and students on a weekly basis.
With respect to diagnostic testing, in partnership with the Oswego County Department of Health, the district will also be referring (not testing) a limited amount of students and staff for free daily diagnostic testing that the Oswego County Department of Health is offering (a total of 48 testing slots are available each day for the nine districts in Oswego County).
Currently, the county is offering “in person” testing at the Pulaski Urgent Care, located at 3858 NY -13, Pulaski, NY 13142 or through their mobile unit which utilizes staff from their urgent care facility. The mobile unit travels throughout the county to different school districts to provide free diagnostic testing for symptomatic students and staff. Both “in person” and mobile unit appointments are subject to availability.
When and where will the mobile unit be testing symptomatic students and staff?
This mobile unit will be providing testing in our district, beginning this week, Thursday, October 25, 2021, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. (future operation days and times are subject to change). The mobile unit will be located in our Utica Street Parking Lot at Oswego High School, 2 Buccaneer Blvd, Oswego, NY 13126.
How can parents and staff get a free “in person” or mobile unit diagnostic testing appointment for symptomatic students and staff?
Parents can request an “in person” or mobile unit appointment through their school nurse. District staff can get an “in person” or mobile unit appointment by contacting the district’s COVID-19 hotline.
Are there any alternative referral sources that are offered for diagnostic testing by the district?
Yes, in addition to referring parents and staff to agencies that are offering free diagnostic testing through the county, district staff will also continue to refer students and staff to other local health centers, agencies and primary care physicians’ offices.
What type of screening test will the district will be utilizing?
To complete weekly screening testing, the district will be utilizing pooled testing. Pooled testing allows for about 5-24 people to be screened in one test (a pool). The testing is done using nasal swabs that are inserted in a patient’s nose. Ages 12 and older can administer the tests themselves, swabbing their nose for 10 or 15 seconds each, and provide the samples (a total of two per person) to medical personnel.
Once completed, one of each person’s samples are then combined into a group (pool) sample, which is then tested for coronavirus. A negative test means that all 5-24 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean every person in that group would need to be placed into quarantine and individually tested by a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for COVID-19. This is a diagnostic test that determines if individual persons are infected with COVID-19 by analyzing their sample individually to see if it contains genetic material from the virus.
It should be noted, if a pooled sample indicates a positive test, all persons who are a part of the pool will be informed of the positive results by the district and will be placed into quarantine by the Oswego County Department of Health until the second individual tests results are returned and are negative.
Will I need to come in again to take the PCR test if the pool is positive?
No, the laboratory that has received each individual person’s pool samples (a total of two) will take the second original sample and use it to complete the individual PCR test that needs to be completed. Test results from the second PCR test should be available within 24-48 hours.
Is there a cost for screening tests?
No, all screening tests will be provided free of charge.
When and where will unvaccinated staff be taking their screening test?
On Monday mornings between the hours of 6 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., the district will be offering screening tests to unvaccinated employees. These tests will be administered at the district’s Transportation Center, located behind the Oswego Middle School, located on Mark Fitzgibbons Drive, Oswego, NY 13126. Staff will need to drive into one of two bus garage bays where the test will be administered to them while in their cars. The test should take between 5 -10 minutes to administer. Results of the test should be provided within approximately 24-48 hours of administration. More details about the start date for these test will be provided to all staff in the near future.
How and where will screening tests be administered to students?
On a weekly basis, parents will receive a notice through Parentsquare about daily screening testing that will occur in all schools throughout each week on a specified day. Any parent who would like to register their child for testing must complete an online registration indicating that they want their unvaccinated child tested. Please note, no child will be tested without parental permission.
Once permission has been obtained and parents have registered their child for testing, the district’s testing team will travel to each school on a specified day to administer screening test. School staff will bring students to a testing site, which will be located in each school where the test will be administered. Once completed, students will be sent back to their classes. Testing results should be available to parents and/or guardians within 24-48 hours.
When does the district plan to start its screening testing program?
The district plans to begin its screening testing program for both staff and students within the next two to three weeks (mid November 2021). More details about our start date are forthcoming.
Is there an agency that will be partnering with the district to provide the screening test for the district?
Yes, the district will be partnering with Affinity Empowering to provide its screening - testing program. Affinity Empowering is a testing program that is supported and funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This program partners with New York State School to offer free COVID-19 screening testing to K-12 schools, colleges and universities and other select community organizations.
Who should I contact with any additional questions about screening or diagnostic testing?
Should any parent and/or guardian have any questions about screening or diagnostic testing, they should contact the district’s COVID-19 hotline directly at 315-341-2050.
As the district moves forward with our new testing programs, please know that we will continue to reach out to our community with updates. Thank you in advance for your time and patience as we implement these new programs.
Yours in Education,
Mathis Calvin III, Ed. D.