Modified: April 10, 2021 9:18am
ERIE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PROVIDES STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO UPDATES TO NEW YORK STATE SCHOOL GUIDANCE
ERIE COUNTY, NY – The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is providing this statement in response to the Revised Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools issued by New York State on April 9, 2021.
The guidance aligns NYS schools with recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2021 to prioritize safe in-person learning within schools.
Using CDC thresholds for schools from its guidance document, the CDC considers 100 or more new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days to be “high transmission” – the highest category. Erie County’s rate was well above 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents throughout March, increasing to over 300 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 2 weeks. Under CDC measures, Erie County is experiencing very high levels of COVID-19 transmission. The most recent rate from April 8 was 348 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days.
As schools decide whether to expand in-person learning, ECDOH asks that administrators keep the following in mind when building their plans:
- Erie County has experienced a strong and sustained increase in new daily cases, driven by high numbers of new cases within the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups. Many parents of school-age children and some school staff are in these age ranges.
- Positivity rates among age groups under age 18 ranged from 9.8% to 12.2% for the week ending April 3, much higher than older age groups.
- COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Erie County have more than doubled in the past month.
- Even as many school staff have completed a COVID-19 vaccination series, very few students ages 16 and 17 years have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose and students ages 15 and under are completely unvaccinated because they are not yet eligible under current FDA emergency use authorizations.
- SARS-Co-V2 samples from Erie County residents show evidence that more transmissible variants of concern are circulating in Erie County.
- Families and school staff who travelled out of the area during Spring Break should strongly consider getting a diagnostic COVID-19 test between 5-7 days after the last date of travel. These tests are free through Erie County and NYS.
- ECDOH has a team within its Office of Epidemiology that solely focuses on COVID-19 cases among students, staff and youth sports teams. This team is managing a surge of COVID-19 cases, overwhelmingly involving students. For the week ending April 10, even though most schools are closed for the spring break holiday, the ECDOH epidemiology office school team expects to manage at least 400 COVID-19 cases. During the week ending April 3, this team received 504 COVID-19 case reports, an increase from 306 the previous week. These cases primarily involve students age 18 years and under.
- Managing COVID-19 cases involves placing individuals with a positive COVID-19 test in isolation, and their close contacts in quarantine. Schools that change to three-foot spacing will be putting classmates firmly in the “close contact” category, and subject to quarantine if a case is identified in their classroom during an infectious period.
Through case investigations, ECDOH has documented that many students and school staff fail to mask or to mask properly, breach the six-foot distance, spend extended time in small, poorly ventilated spaces (e.g., breakrooms, car pools), and come to school when ill.
“As we have said before, NYS sets school guidance, and schools establish policies that meet that guidance,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Our advice to Erie County’s school leaders is to review this update carefully, and implement all possible mitigation strategies, regardless of whether your school chooses to expand in-person learning.”
- Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH), COVID-19, Schools: http://www.erie.gov/covid19/schools
- ECDOH, COVID-19 Information Line: (716) 858-2929 – foreign language interpretation available
- New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Pre-k-12 Schools Master Guidance: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Pre-K_to_Grade_12_Schools_MasterGuidance.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html