Monroe County officials give update on COVID-19 transmission in schools

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Most Monroe County school districts are now in the third week of the school year, and as predicted, COVID-19 case numbers have been rising, particularly among kids who are ineligible for the vaccine.

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza estimated Thursday that there are about 40 new cases per day in school districts across the county.

On Thursday there were more than 170 people in quarantine in the Victor Central School District according to Superintendent Tim Terranova.

The areas of the highest concern for most districts are the bus and the cafeteria or wherever kids are eating lunch unmasked.

Superintendent Chris Brown at Marcus Whitman Central School estimates that about 60% of eligible students are currently vaccinated, and about 85% of staff are as well. Like other districts, at Marcus Whitman transmission is mostly occurring at gatherings outside of school buildings, which was confirmed by Dr. Mendoza Thursday.

"It’s outside activities. Get-togethers on the weekends, things like that,” Brown said. “But at the same time, a case is a case is a case, it doesn’t matter where you get it. You have it, and it still has an impact at school."

"For the most part, the students and staff who are infected are doing so outside of the school environment," Dr. Mendoza said.

At Marcus Whitman, since the beginning of the school year there have been six positive cases among students and staff, and none of them have been traced back to school. A number of factors go into determining whether or not someone needs to quarantine after a positive case is reported in a school district.

"Were they wearing a mask, how long were they wearing a mask, what was the distance between the two people, all of that is factored in and we do that through a contact trace," Brown said.

Once the school district has collected all of the necessary information for contact tracing, that information is sent to the county department of health. It’s the DOH that then determines who needs to quarantine.

"If you were to ask me what’s the largest frustration point from parents, I would say it’s that piece of quarantining,” Brown said. “’What do you mean my kid has to quarantine?’ Well, that’s the way the county protocol is right now, and the Department of Health protocol, but when we get these rapid tests that’s going to change and be a little bit more flexible."

Dr. Mendoza said in his weekly COVID briefing Thursday that he’s not concerned about the number of tests available to school districts in Monroe County, something that could be an issue in other areas. He expects regular COVID testing in schools to begin during the first week of October.

Watch the full press conference in the video in the player below (mobile users, click here):

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Normally school districts are required to report weekly COVID data to the state so that the state can publish it on its COVID dashboard. That dashboard is currently not working, but the state says it should be back up and running by Monday. Once it’s working again, parents can access it here.