Monroe County moving forward with ‘test to stay’

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Monroe County is hoping a one-two punch approach will cut down on COVID-19 in the classroom.

Children ages 5 through 11 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19 but if they’re not, expanded testing in schools may soon allow them to stay even if they’ve been exposed to the virus.

A few weeks ago, Monroe County made it easier for kids who were out of school because of COVID symptoms to get back to class by opening a rapid PCR testing site for school-aged children.

“As of today [Thursday], we have performed nearly 600 tests at the site with only 26 positive results, that means more than 550 children were able to go back to school the following day and not have to wait up to a week to return to the classroom,” explained Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

A major issue remains though for unvaccinated students who’ve been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. Those children are still required to quarantine for 10 days, missing in-person learning, essentially waiting to see if they get sick.

‘We understand that there is significant interest among many schools in our community for an option that would allow unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID-19 to continue with in person instruction as long as they feel well and test negative for the virus,” said Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, “at this point, my team and I have reviewed the science and feel that “test to stay” is a reasonable approach as long as the substantial concerns around equity and logistics can be resolved. We are in the process of working through those details and I anticipate being able to recommend a test to stay option once we have finalized all of these conversations with the schools.”

Dr. Mendoza wants to remind parents though, there is another way for almost all school-aged children to stay in class after a COVID exposure.

“Asymptomatic close contacts will not need to test to stay if they are vaccinated, vaccinated students simply get to stay,” he explained.