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Erie County Department of Health, Grand Island Schools to pilot Test-to-Stay program

Grand Island was selected after meeting a series of criteria that made them a good candidate for the pilot program.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After reviewing available information and meeting with WNY school leaders, the Erie County Department of Health says it's ready to move forward with a Test-to-Stay program. 

In the program, a school with K-12 students who are not fully vaccinated and who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-19 case from a school exposure would have a rapid COVID test before each school day as part of a modified quarantine. If the test is negative, the student would be allowed to attend school that day. A positive result would mean the student is excluded from school and placed in isolation at home. School staff and students with a household exposure would not be eligible. 

“Superintendent feedback was instrumental in moving this Test to Stay program forward,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “This approach will require a substantial investment of time and resources from our department and individual schools and administrators. 

"To do it right, we have to find out what works, how we can improve, and what our schools can expect. And with more than two dozen school districts, dozens of private schools and more than 130,000 K-12 students in Erie County, a countywide launch is simply not feasible. A pilot program is the best first step forward.”

Grand Island was selected after meeting a series of criteria that made them a good candidate for the pilot program. That criteria included having a sufficient number of active COVID-19 cases, a student population that would yield a solid set of data and the ability to offer COVID-19 testing through a Limited Service License. 

“We are very pleased to participate in the Test to Stay program pilot,” said Grand Island Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham. “For our students who are identified as a close contact to a person who is positive with COVID-19, the Test to Stay strategy will maximize time learning in the classroom; provide important social, nutritional and mental health supports; and, maintain routines for families who struggle with child care and transportation.”

The Erie County Department of Health will provide the antigen tests through an $18 million federal grant that has been allocated for school testing and vaccination. 

“The bulk of those funds will go towards their intended purposes, which are highly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH): screening testing, proximate testing and vaccine clinics,” Burstein said.

“Though neither CDC nor NYSDOH recommend TTS, in the interests of maximizing in-school attendance for K-12 students, ECDOH will support this program by providing tests, staff training, contact tracing support and data analysis. Schools will be responsible for testing and parental consent, and data collection.”

Test-to-Stay will begin as an option for Grand Island students on Dec. 6. The district has contracted with Buffalo Homecare, Inc. to provide staff for testing and data entry.

A full schedule of COVID-19 vaccine clinics for ages 5 years and older can be found here.

Here is a list of additional COVID-19 resources:

ECDOH, COVID-19 vaccine info & clinic schedule: http://www.erie.gov/vax

ECDOH, COVID-19 Information Line: (716) 858-2929 – foreign language interpretation available

ECDOH, COVID-19 Weekly Data Updates: https://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=covid-19-media-data

New York State Department of Health, COVID-19 Boosters: http://ny.gov/boosters