State, city & teachers approve new ‘hot spot’ testing protocol

Stephon Johnson | 10/8/2020, midnight
New York State, New York City and teachers unions have united over increasing testing in schools...particularly in schools that are ...
School/education Pixabay

New York State, New York City and teachers unions have united over increasing testing in schools...particularly in schools that are hot spots.

This week, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new, random weekly testing for New York City public schools in areas that have seen an uptick in COVID cases. Cuomo presented maps showing hot spots in an orange to yellow color scheme, with orange zones representing hot spots and yellow zones on the peripheral.

Cuomo’s ordered all schools in orange zones closed and pushed to remote learning only and schools in yellow zones will be subjected to random weekly drug testing. Schools would blindly test 10% to 20% of school students and staff with the size of the sample based on the size of the school. Results of these tests would be available within two days.

The governor said that testing this way is important because of what happened elsewhere in the tri-state area at the beginning of lockdown.

“The students are people who are very likely to interact with people within that community. We saw this in New Rochelle,” said Cuomo during a news briefing. “All the kids go to different schools, I know, but they meet at the playground or they’re on the Little League team or they’re on the hockey team or they went to somebody’s birthday party and they interacted. The schools are important because you will very often see the schools be a place of transmission.

“If two students interact at a birthday party on a Friday night and then go to school, they then bring it home to their parents and now we’re off to the races again,” Cuomo said.

At the beginning of this week. New York State had a confirmed 465,515 COVID cases with 246,885 of them in New York City alone. Of those cases around the state 25,527 have resulted in death.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the importance of testing.

“Folks understand the hand-wash and the hand sanitizer, the social distancing, the face mask,” said de Blasio. “If sick, they’re staying home, people are doing this the right way and it’s proven by the testing we’re seeing at our schools. So we’re going to keep that testing going in the 13 zip codes on the watch list, constantly moving from school to school each day, to keep a clear picture on what’s going on.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

“Testing is one of the keys to halting the spread of the virus, and the governor’s plan for additional testing for schools will help us keep our students, educators and school communities safe,” said Mulgrew.

Some of the hot spots in question include neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn like Rego Park, Williamsburg, Borough Park, Crown Heights and Forest Hills.

De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had recently come under fire for their handling of school reopening during the COVID pandemic. They were accused of not hiring enough teachers and confusing rules for the staggered rescheduling. However, random testing’s something critics and teachers’ unions can agree on.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said he approved of the new testing protocol for hot spot areas, but needed more information on the specifics of said protocol.

“Erring on the side of caution means closing school buildings when there is serious risk of spreading COVID-19 and we believe the state is taking the right steps by seeking to close schools in these hot spots,” stated Pallotta. “At the same time, we are seeking additional details on the state’s testing plan for student and staff in an in-person setting in the outlying areas of these hot spots.

“These outbreaks have underscored just how real the threat of this violent still is,” Pallotta said.