Created: September 30, 2021 11:15 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester-area parents trying to get their kids a COVID-clean bill of health to go to school are getting a boost from Monroe County, the elimination of the need for doctors to give kids a formal okay to return to class.
Health officials say doctors’ offices and urgent cares are being overwhelmed with possible cases of coronavirus, plus a surge in another routinely expected virus and, while only a few children turn out to have COVID, the paperwork has become a heavy burden.
"We've been running this way now for about a week and a half,” explained pediatrician Dr. Tracy Meier.
With area students back in class, she said her office has been intensely active during what's normally a quiet time for doctors after the completion of back-to-school checkups.
She said kids with coronavirus but far more, kids with what looks like it, have kept her and her staff very busy, testing them for school.
"There are so many symptoms of COVID that look like other things,” she said. “We are doing what we have to do to keep everybody safe, testing these kids.”
"Our emergency rooms are very full. And there are long waits there,” said Robert Mayo, Chief Medical Officer at Rochester Regional Health.
Health officials say local health care systems have been overwhelmed dealing with children with a handful of young coronavirus cases but also a real, unusual, surge of the seasonal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). That bug has shown up earlier and more broadly than normal.
Officials say the volume of cases, real ones and potential ones, has kept healthy kids out of school waiting for a COVID-clean bill of health from their doctors, even after they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.
So now, the Monroe County Health Department is amending its rules to get them back in.
“We have tweaked our COVID-19 return to school protocol,” said Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza. “So that not every student needs to see a healthcare provider in order to get back to school. As long as their symptoms are gone, and they have tested negative with the right test, they can get right back to school."
Meier said letting parents pass children's test results directly to school will lift a big burden for her and her staff.
"Patient access associates are spending more time faxing the results to schools,” she said. “Our nurses are spending more time on the telephone telling patients ‘okay, your test result was negative.’”
Meier said letting parents communicate those results instead of her staff will free up resources at what it expected to become a busy time, the period when students give each other various forms of sniffles in school and the start of flu season.
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