ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Since the start of August, cases among 5 to 11-year-olds in Monroe County have gone up roughly 800%, according to the Monroe County Health Department.
Prior to Thanksgiving, cases had been rising among students and now school officials are now waiting to see if there’s an impact from holiday gatherings.
“We definitely saw an increase at the start of November and in those weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we saw that across the county. Since we’ve been back from Thanksgiving break, we haven’t been back long enough to see what exactly is going to happen,” said said Bo Wright, the President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents and Superintendent of the Rush-Henrietta School District.
The Monroe County Health Department says between Nov. 26-30, there have been 271 positive cases among those under the age of 9, and 305 cases among those ages 10 to 19.
Wright said leading up to Thanksgiving they were specifically seeing younger students test positive, with most of the transmission happening outside the classroom.
“We saw much higher percentages of school aged children testing positive, especially in that 5 to 11 year old age range, and that’s simply because you have higher percentages of students who are unvaccinated,” Wright said.
He added that despite the rise in cases, school districts are still committed to keeping learning in-person. In fact, schools are currently working on ways to keep healthy kids in class. A Test to Stay option began for unvaccinated students in area many schools this week.
“What the protocol allows us to do is to test students over a 7-day-period to ensure that they’re not positive. But in the meantime, allow them to remain in school for in-person instruction as long as they’re not symptomatic and as long as they continue to test negative,” Wright said.
Wright called the testing option a “game changer” and said there were times at his school district where they would have to quarantine large groups of students or even classrooms due to an exposure, even if students didn’t end up testing positive in the end.
“I know here in Rush-Henrietta it has been successful in the first couple days and helping to keep healthy kids from being quarantined, which a real concern for all school districts in the county. So I’m optimistic about that and thankful to our local Department of Health for their partnership and their support as we got that off the ground,” Wright said.
For students that are vaccinated and are exposed to COVID, they don’t have to quarantine if they don’t have symptoms.
Wright said most schools are taking advantage of the test to stay option, but the Rochester City School District is not.
Going forward, if cases continue to rise in schools or if many staff members call out, Wright said they may have to get creative.
“Depending on what happens with the staffing… do I think we may have to get creative in terms of how we’re utilizing teachers and staff and how we how we shift folks around based on needs within districts? That’s a possibility,” Wright said.
As for vaccinations among student-aged children, Wright said he hopes they have a positive impact on keeping numbers down but he respects that getting vaccinated is a “very personal decision” for parents to make for their children.
“What we try to do is to make sure that our families have information to make the best decision for themselves and for their children, and to connect them with with resources in the event that they want to get their kids vaccinated,” Wright said.
To check COVID cases in our area and among school-aged child, visit the Monroe County Health Department’s tracker here.