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School District Virus Cases to Be Posted on New State Website

Mon, 09/07/2020 - 12:43
An announcement on a door at the Sag Harbor Elementary School this summer listing "precautionary measures to keep the workplace safe for everyone."
Carissa Katz

New York State school districts must now report confirmed cases of Covid-19 to a state Department of Health website that will be publicly accessible by the start of the school year.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the new mandate on Thursday, and school districts received a letter from health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker detailing the new system for reporting cases. Information will be broken down to the level of individual school buildings and will be updated daily, according to the governor's announcement. School districts will also be required to post the link to the database on their websites. 

"Many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans, but as I've said from the beginning, those plans are only as good as their implementation," Governor Cuomo said in a statement. "Parents and teachers are understandably concerned about schools reopening. . . . I hope this will give teachers and parents some confidence that the plans are being implemented and if there's a positive case, they will know and [the] Department of Health will know and the locals can respond quickly."

For many local schools, the new requirement is already consistent with reopening plans. That is the case in the East Hampton and Montauk School Districts.

"We will be able to put this in place and it is in line with what we were planning," Richard Burns, the East Hampton superintendent, said by email Friday. "Hopefully the dashboard will be easy to navigate. Many of the platforms initiated from [the] State Education Department or the governor's office are archaic and hard to navigate."

"We already need to report cases to the D.O.H., and as soon as the dashboard is given to us it will be on our website," Jack Perna, the Montauk School District superintendent, said in an email.

Districts will not be doing Covid-19 tests themselves. At the Springs School, upon receipt of information about a case connected to a student or staff member, Debra Winter, that district's superintendent, said by email Monday that "according to this directive, we then take that information and report in this dashboard daily."

The governor also announced a separate state university tracking system to monitor and isolate clusters of Covid-19 on the state's 64 college campuses. The State University at Oneonta has already closed its campus for the semester after more than 300 students tested positive for the virus following a handful of parties students held on campus.

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