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Change to COVID school testing makes a superintendent do 'backflips'

Berkeley Brean
Updated: November 16, 2020 06:19 PM
Created: November 16, 2020 05:19 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are parents in Monroe County asking their children, "How did the test go?"

But the test wasn’t math or science. It was COVID. 

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The first in-school COVID tests started Monday. 

By the end of the week, 20% of students and staff combined in Yellow Zone schools have to be tested. 

But the New York State Department of Health changed one of its testing rules over the weekend. 

And one superintendent told News10NBC the change is a relief. 

“Honestly, we were doing backflips,” said Dr. Aaron Johnson, Superintendent West Irondequoit Schools.

On Friday he produced a video of himself taking the rapid COVID-19 test that his students and staff will start taking Wednesday. 

On Sunday, the state changed a rule. In an update to the testing guidelines the state writes if, after “a two-week period” the positive test results in a school district are lower than the seven-day average in Monroe County’s Yellow Zone, “testing at that school will no longer be required to continue.”

“So this helps us to meet the mandate,” Superintendent Johnson said. “I guess just reinforce the fact that schools are the safest place in the community right now.”

“So I’m the principal investigator for the University of Rochester Medical Center,” said Kian Merchant-Borna. “So I over saw all of the enrollment and testing of individuals who presented to our emergency department.”

Starting in the summer, Merchant-Borna ran the trials testing the test being used in schools. 

He says the trials show the test is fast, reliable and able to diagnose a positive case 97% of the time. 

Kian Merchant-Borna, Research faculty in Dept. of ER: “It is simple. It is effective. It’s easy to distribute and use and is able to quickly identify those individuals who are positive for COVID-19.”

In West Irondequoit, testing 20% a week equals 730 students and teachers combined. Two weeks of that is manageable. The concern is if the area jumps from yellow to orange or red. 

Dr. Aaron Johnson, Superintendent West Irondequoit Schools: “If we’re elevated to Orange or Red zone, that’s a whole different story. Then we know to get back in the door all of our people have to test negative. We know that going into it.”

Merchant-Borna told me the U of R just got 10,000 of the same tests. He says undergrads at the river campus and Eastman School of Music have to take the test before they go back home for Thanksgiving. And they have to take another test before they come back to campus.


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