Governor on ‘Test to Stay’: We are refining guidelines

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — During a COVID-19 press briefing in Rochester on Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said despite the winter surge upon us, she is committed to keeping schools open for in-person instruction.

Children who were forced to learn remotely, “their, emotional health took a huge hit,” Gov. Hochul said, “we don’t need any more studies to see what you can see in the eyes of parents who say my child is not the same as they were before this pandemic, that year of isolation, detachment, not real learning.”

So, her position is clear.

“My view is that every child should be back in school unless they are testing positive,” she said.

Over the last few weeks, NYS has shipped millions of rapid COVID testing kits to school districts and Gov. Hochul has consistently been talking about the “Test to Stay” program as a way to ensure that even kids who are exposed to COVID-19, can continue in-person learning as long as he/she continues to be asymptomatic and test negative for the virus.

But here’s the problem: The guidance that the New York State Department of Health recently put out for school districts to follow when it comes to Test to Stay indicates that it should only be considered if the exposure happened in school between students who were masked. But if both students are properly masked, they’re not considered to be close contacts and therefore wouldn’t be required quarantine. And, until now, it didn’t matter where the exposure happened.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke asked Governor Hochul about this directly.

Jennifer Lewke – Governor, The Finger Lakes Region, the schools here were actually early adopters of Test to Stay however the new guidelines from the state almost pull some of that back. The guidelines from the state say that they can only Test to Stay if the exposure was in school. You’ve been very clear, most of our county leaders have been very clear that there is not a high transmission in school, it’s outside of school so is that being looked at for change?

Governor Hochul It certainly is, we are refining everything and we react to what the CDC allows us to do then we have to adapt…You’re absolutely right. There is a thought that if they’re next to a child who tests positive, instead of having the whole class go home because there could have been exposure and having those children stay home for 10 days which is wildly disruptive, I literally was with one of my staffers and she looked down at her text and said “Oh my gosh, my children are going home for another 10 days they just got back because they were exposed to someone else,”—We can’t do that, that’s almost as disruptive is saying it’s full-time remote and that has to end. So, we’re going to be smart about it. Asking where the exposure came from, it’s a different question but I think we can get to the same place, we can really get to the same place where there’s minimal disruption. Test to return if you’ve been exposed, show a negative but then test again in three days. This is not just a one-off, you have to test again just to confirm that and that way we can have more stability in our school system.