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Erie County Department of Health announces school based COVID-19 testing program

Enrolled schools in Erie County to test random sample of students and staff once a week.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Department of Health announced on Monday a school-based COVID-19 testing program.

ECDOH received $18.5 million in federal funding to coordinate testing of K-12 students and school staff for school districts that have opted in to the initiative. Students must have parental consent to participate in a screening and proximate testing program.

“COVID-19 is an aggressive and infectious disease, and we are in a position to offer COVID-19 tests proactively for students and school staff. Doing this is part of providing greater protection to our entire community,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “This initiative works alongside the other mitigation strategies and requirements outlined in the New York State Department of Health’s school guidance.”

The screen tests are recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health to be a part of schools' strategy to mitigate COVID-19.

The program will test a random sample of students and staff once a week to screen for COVID. 

Additionally, proximate testing will be used when a classroom has a positive COVID-19 case. Students in the classroom are not required to quarantine according to NYSDOH guidance, but a PCR test will be a will be available three to five days after exposure. 

These tests will be available in early October.

“We want to reduce the risk of in-class transmission and keep kids in school,” Burstein said. “Our department strongly encourages parents to sign their children up for this program if it is offered by their school.”

Buffalo Home Care, Inc., will supervise the collection of samples and take them to Quadrant Biosciences. The samples will be collected by the student or staff member.

“Children as young as three years old are able to manage this, with supervision," Burstein said. 

The test results should be available the next day through Quadrant Biosciences’ app and website. ECDOH school team in the office of epidemiology will have access to positive test results and will reach out to people who test positive for contact tracing.

Parents and school staff can sign up to participate in the program on the ECDOH school testing website, or by contacting the school's principal. 

The list of participating school districts is constantly changing, and is available on consent form page. If the school district you are looking for is not listed, ECDOH suggests calling the principal to find out if and when the school may be participating. 

Health insurance is requested when signing up, but not required. Testing will be free for families and staff.