The following FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) were initially published by the Rockland Department of Health (DOH) and will be updated as more information is learned and guidance is provided by New York State.
Q: Did New York State Department of Health mandate COVID-19 Testing for those who are not fully vaccinated?
A: The New York State Department of Health has issued a mandate requiring all district employees to submit proof of full vaccination in lieu of mandated weekly COVID-19 testing. Please review the link: Rockland County Health Department to access vaccination sites for both initial and the booster vaccination for immunocompromised individuals.
Q: What are the recommended protocols if a student tests positive?
A: Students should immediately be placed in isolation at home for at least 10 days. School staff should assist the Rockland DOH in contact tracing efforts by providing a list of probable close contacts. The identification of close contacts begins 48 hours before the student becomes symptomatic, or 48 hours before the student was tested for the COVID-19 virus if asymptomatic. Identified close contacts should also remain at home for 10 days of quarantine from the date of last exposure to the infected student.
If during a case interview, the Rockland DOH identifies that case as a student in school, we would reach out to the school administrator to inform them of the positive case and conduct contact tracing. If it is a rapid antigen test, the student/family may get the result before the DOH. In that situation, we would expect the medical office that ordered the test to reach out to us, or perhaps the family. If the school district is aware of a positive test among its students or staff, but has not heard from the Rockland DOH, please reach out to us so that we can confirm this case. Case investigation/contact tracing would then proceed after NCDOH or SCDOH is notified.
The DOH is responsible for case investigation and contact tracing in their counties. School districts should support case investigation and contact tracing efforts by confirming attendance, sharing rosters, etc. Case investigations are typically done within 24 hours of receipt of a positive test result. School districts should have plans in place related to community notification and operations while investigations are underway. Rockland DOH provides isolation or quarantine orders to all cases and contacts in their respective counties. In addition, those under isolation or quarantine will be monitored daily. When the isolation or quarantine period has ended, a letter from the local health department confirming release will be provided to each case and contact. Students and/or staff can provide the letter to their school district to return.
Contact tracing and quarantining of close contacts is initiated upon receipt of a positive test result. In addition, only contacts of the case are quarantined, not contacts of contacts.
Q: What are recommended protocols if a staff member tests positive?
A: The staff member should be in home isolation for at least 10 days, with contact tracing as outlined in the previous answer. The District will elicit current employment on case investigation and would reach out to the specific school when we find out. In addition, please note that each DOH investigates its own County cases. Confirmed cases in faculty, staff and administrators that live outside the school’s county will be investigated by the jurisdiction in which they reside. In these cases, please know that varied County Departments of Health will work together.
Q: If a child is quarantined, how will they receive remote instruction?
A: The parent/guardian should immediately report the case to their child’s building level nurse, teacher or principal. The student(s) will receive assignments through their appropriate platform (ie: Classlink, Google Suite or Schoology) from their teacher(s). All students that are quarantined will receive a live synchronous session daily to provide support during the time of quarantining.
Q: What are the recommended protocols for a symptomatic student on a bus?
A: Local health department would not be involved for symptoms only. The District would only begin an investigation based on a positive virus test. If a student tests positive, any close contacts of that student, (including those on the same bus) may be subject to quarantine.
Q: What are the recommended protocols for suspected cases of COVID-19?
A: Students and staff with symptoms of illness should not attend school. It is recommended that individuals and/or families consult their medical provider to determine if COVID-19 testing is warranted. Note: notification and contact tracing is initiated upon receipt of a positive COVID-19 test result. No action is taken for suspected cases. Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 should follow the established CDC/NYS DOH guidelines for ending isolation. All residents who test positive are monitored daily by the Rockland DOH contact tracing staff and will receive a letter from their Rockland DOH confirming release from isolation.
Students and staff with other illnesses (ex: cold, flu, strep throat, etc.) should follow existing school policy for return and consult with their medical provider for guidance.
Q: What should someone do while waiting for a pending COVID-19 result?
A: Staff and students who have been tested for COVID-19 or who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, should remain at home and not come to school until results are known. A positive result will require additional isolation of the case and close contacts elicited as described above. Quarantine and/or notification will be determined by the local health department in conjunction with the school district. Laboratory testing may take days until results are determined.
Q: To what extent must students/staff quarantine/isolate after:
A: For a singular positive case Identified close contacts (students or staff) should be placed on quarantine for 10 days from the date of last contact. Rockland DOH recommends that close contacts get tested for COVID-19.
A: For multiple positives This would be more complicated, depending on if they are in the same cohort (a cluster), or positives in multiple cohorts (an outbreak). Those in a cluster would isolate at home, and a presumably small number of identified close contacts would quarantine at home. An outbreak across multiple cohorts would involve a larger number of people identified as close contacts, and thus more of the student population under quarantine. This would require coordination with NYS DOH in addition to the school district.
Q: Should isolation occur within singular classroom? Grade level? Building? District?
A: Isolation would apply to the person who tests positive. Any close contacts identified for quarantine will likely be in the same classroom or lunchroom. Schools should try to limit the number of cohorts to the greatest extent possible. For most children that number is going to be at least two - the bus and the classroom.
Q: If an elementary student tests positive and the students within the class/cohort are all in masks and 6 feet apart in class must the class be quarantined?
A: This scenario will be decided on a case-by-case basis. There would be many factors to consider including age of students, time spent in the classroom, size of the classroom, etc. If all protocols for wearing face masks and social distancing are practiced, the likelihood that additional positive cases are identified from that cohort is minimal. These individuals may be considered proximate contacts and should be monitored for signs and symptoms while not being considered part of the contact tracing effort. The school district may decide to notify students and staff in the classroom or building who are not close contacts.
Q: If the spouse of a faculty member presents with a positive COVID test, how long should that employee isolate? Should a negative test be required to return to work?
A: The employee would be considered a close contact of the spouse, and would be subject to quarantine for 10 days from the date of last contact with the spouse. The employee may return to work after completion of the quarantine period; no test is necessary unless the employee develops symptoms. People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after close contact with an infected person unless the vaccinated person who is exposed develops symptoms.
Q: If a faculty member who has wide-spread access to the building tests positive (ie - custodian, principal, etc.) to what extent should isolation occur amongst the rest of the population? What steps should be taken before a return?
A: The faculty member should be in home isolation. If anyone meets the definition of a close contact with that faculty member, the close contact(s) should be quarantined for 10 days. The faculty member may return to work after 10 days of isolation provided that person is fever free for the last 72 hours without the use of fever reducing medications and symptoms (if any) are improving.
Q: What protocols need to be put in place for students/families that were at a bus stop; students and staff who were on a bus; and classmates and teachers of the bus riders in the following scenario?
A child who rides a school bus has a parent who was notified that he/she/they had tested positive for COVID-19 after the child left the house for the bus stop; and the parent then calls the principal to alert regarding the positive test result however the student has already arrived at school and is in class.
A: The child should be sent home to be placed in quarantine. The child is most likely a close contact, but did not test positive, therefore there is no action that needs to be taken for any of the other persons mentioned. DOH will not quarantine a contact of a contact.
Q: Who has the authority to mandate vaccinations for public school teachers and anyone over 16 years of age that enters our schools? What specific statute or regulation legally prohibits the school district from implementing more robust health standards beyond the “guidance” issued by the New York State Department of Health?
A: Without a mandate from NYS, including the State Education Department or State Department of Health, or the local Rockland County Health Department, there is no legal authority for the District to unilaterally require COVID-19 vaccinations for all teachers. According to that part of the NYS Civil Service Law known as the Taylor Law, the District as the employer has the obligation to negotiate with the various employee unions in the District regarding the terms and conditions of employment of the public employees represented by such unions. Until there is a mandate from NYS, including the State Education Department or State Department of Health, or the local Rockland County Health Department, any requirement that all teachers be vaccinated would be considered a mandatory subject of negotiations and, as such, must be negotiated between the public school district and the teachers union.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued its Commissioner’s Determination on COVID-19 Testing mandates on September 2, 2021 which require all school districts to ensure teachers and staff have testing performed for COVID-19 at least once per week when a school is in a geographic area identified by the CDC as having low, moderate, substantial, or high transmission rates. Under this NYSDOH Commissioner’s Determination, teachers and staff may be permitted to opt-out of mandatory weekly screening testing if they provide documentation of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, the District and our Nyack Bargaining Units agreed to certain Memoranda of Agreement regarding COVID-19 testing of their respective unit members for the 2021-2022 school year prior to the issuance of the NYSDOH Commissioner’s Determination.
Q: What day(s) will staff members be tested who did not provide proof of their vaccination status?
A: Currently, we will test all staff members who did not provide proof of their vaccination status once a week on a rotating schedule in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Health.
Q: How quickly will test results be made available and communicated to the local community?
A: Individuals that are tested by the district’s provider are expected to receive results on the same day of testing or soon thereafter. For any individuals who test positive, the district will conduct contact tracing for those in close contact and provide general communication to the parents/guardians and staff of the affected school via our website and communication systems.
Q: Will unvaccinated teachers be allowed on premises while test results are pending?
A: Any staff, including teachers, who have symptoms of COVID-19 are expected to remain home from work. Unvaccinated teachers will be permitted on premises while awaiting receipt of their test results. As noted above, the district is also taking other appropriate precautions such as the wearing of masks, social distancing to the extent practicable, providing hand sanitizers, use of air purifiers and use of disinfecting supplies.