Onondaga County is working to set up a central rapid testing site for school students and staff showing symptoms of COVID-19. The move comes after two students tested positive at two Syracuse-area elementary schools. County Executive Ryan McMahon says the cases don’t come as a surprise, and they’re putting the infrastructure in place to handle them.
“We want to be able to know when a staff member or student has symptoms, that they have a place to go so that we can communicate directly with our health department, and we do not lose any time. We want to be able to start contract tracing immediately. We are working with Upstate Medical Center on that and it should be up by the end of the week.”
McMahon says results could be known within four hours. Children or staff will need a negative result and be symptom free before returning to the classroom. The county is conducting contact tracing for the cases from Van Buren Elementary in Baldwinsville and Jamesville Elementary. They will also issue quarantine orders as necessary, but County Health Commissioner Doctor Indu Gupta says that might not even be necessary for an entire classroom. They take several factors into account.
“ The six-feet rule, how big the room is, and whether or not kids and teacher were wearing masks. The small things like that help us make the decision."
That includes recommending whether or not to close a classroom or an entire school. Gupta says a school district can be more, but not less restrictive than the county’s recommendation, which she says already errs on the side of caution.
"We're pretty restrictive in this situation. We are being very restrictinve in terms of wanting to protect more. We're not recommending closure of a school at this point."
That is the situation for these initial cases, but she says every scenario is different. In addition to the testing site for symptomatic students, the county is also working on a plan for saliva-based pool testing for asymptomatic cases in districts, similar to what’s taking place on local college campuses.