‘Test to stay, or test to get out?’ New state DOH guidelines give schools the power to choose certain COVID protocols

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— New state guidelines introduced Wednesday gives school districts the power of choice when it comes to handling COVID testing and quarantine procedures.

The Department of Health broke the choices down into four categories: Test to stay. test to permit return to school, test out of quarantine, and exemptions for weekly testing.

So, what do these mean?

Option 1: Test to Stay (TTS)

Test to stay is a strategy that will allow people with close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID to avoid having to leave school for quarantine. The trade-off is the person will have to test negative by way of a daily rapid test for at least seven days after the initial exposure. Other quarantine-related protocols would stay in place.

Option 2: Test to Return

The guidance now allows people who experienced COVID-like symptoms to return to school if they are either fully vaccinated OR have had COVID within the last 90 days IF they have a negative test. People who are not fully vaccinated or have not had COVID within 90 days must have a negative test to return back after experiencing symptoms unless they meet certain criteria.

Option 3: Test out of Quarantine

The practice of getting out of quarantine early is not recommended by the DOH, but, if a district does choose to do it, it will have to follow guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those guidelines are also listed below.

When diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, then quarantine can end after Day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation (e.g., in anticipation of testing delays), but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after Day 7.

Option 4: Exemptions for weekly testing

People who are asymptomatic but were exposed to COVID-19 who have been previously diagnosed with COVID and have since recovered, are not required to retest and quarantine. The DOH gives a timeline of within 3 months after the date of symptom onset from their initial infection date or first positive test if they were asymptomatic while sick.

It will be up to the schools to keep track of when the three months is over, at which time testing will have to continue.

DOH Memo 10272021 by News10NBC on Scribd

What does it mean for districts?

While local health departments and districts are free to take up those policies, there are features they will miss out on.

The DOH says it will not provide new TTS technical assistance or resources for schools who allow test to return or test out of quarantine procedures. Additionally, if a district allows testing exemptions, the DOH will provide technical help for testing out of quarantine.

If a school does adopt a TTS protocol, the department outlined a list of rules, which includes staying current on test results, ensuring all districts within a county have access to the technology, and outline protocols that consider fair access within a school. The full list can be found here.

As we’ve previously reported, Monroe County is allowing schools to offer rapid PCR COVID-19 tests on-site. it’s a voluntary program. Health leaders said districts will need some time to train but most believe they can get the programs up and running within the next few weeks.