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Gov. Hochul pushes millions of COVID test kits for schools to keep kids in classrooms

When Albany says they're ramping up test kit distribution this week, they seem very serious about the desire to keep students in the classrooms.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With COVID cases still going up here in New York state and elsewhere, there is a strong push to get more testing kits out to the public especially to school districts. This effort to keep students in school during the pandemic is kicking into high gear this week before kids return from their holiday break.

When Albany says they're ramping up test kit distribution this week, they seem very serious about the desire to keep students in the classrooms even with the rise in COVID cases.

Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters during her COVID briefing that, "We wanna make sure that these schools stay open.  As Dr. Bassett (NYS Health Commissioner) has said,  most cases are not being transmitted in schools. Children are wearing their masks, we want more vaccinated and boosted at some point as soon as possible but we understand that it is not a good option to say children are gonna be returning home again." 

That is what some have feared could happen with more rounds of remote learning as COVID cases mounted up. 

One of Hochul's top aides, Acting NYS Homeland Security Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "It's our responsibility to supply as many of our districts as we possibly can so that they can supply as many kids as they possibly can with kits. So I just wanted to reiterate some of the numbers - it's about 6 million tests - three million kits that will go out this week."

That's to the 731 school districts across the state. 

Governor Hochul has suggested the testing kits go home in students' backpacks. However, at the district level, some thoughts and questions surfaced because those tests are really in demand as we're seeing.

Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurie says, "I almost could envision a pickup at schools where parents could come and pick them up. I don't foresee anything that could cause harm to a child. But using them correctly. Not having somebody mass-collect them once they're in  a child's backpack  -  if we're gonna speak honestly - and then potentially re-selling them on the black market."

But the overall strategy is welcomed by superintendents with again the test to stay and keep kids in school mantras in an expanded program.

They hope to find out more about all that in a mass conference call between the governor and all those districts' school leaders on Tuesday. 

Hamburg Superintendent Michael Cornell is also the President of the Erie - Niagara School Superintendent's Association. He says I expect that she'll give us as much information as she has at hand about the way test to stay is gonna be rolled out. I expect that she'll reflect the same sense of urgency around making sure that kids are in school every day that they're healthy and well."

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