Yellow zone: Why schools say lowering the rate might not change behavior

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Superintendent of Schools for Monroe County, Kathleen Graupman, held a briefing Friday to answer questions about testing in Monroe County schools due to the the new COVID-19 yellow zone requirements.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that due to rising cases of the coronavirus, portions of Monroe County met the criteria to be determined a “yellow zone” microcluster. To get out of the yellow zone, schools must conduct mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.

Since the Governor’s announcement, local schools have been busy planning for testing and sending out consent forms to students and families. Dr. Mendoza said schools have been doing a great job and are safe so many parents and educators are wondering- why the testing?

“Frankly I think it’s a way to lower the rate in our community,” said Graupman during Friday’s briefing.

She said she thinks testing should be done in other places in the community, not just schools.

“We could artificially lower our rate and not change any behavior within our community. We might be able to do this in schools and that might be helpful in terms of lowering the rate and stabilizing us a bit, but we need to have some significant input and commitment from community members around what are we gonna do differently,” she said.

Dr. Richard Alweis is a primary care internal medicine doctor with Rochester Regional Health. He said many children are asymptomatic and this is a way to catch those cases before they spread.

“I understand as a parent that I may not see it very clearly as a direct benefit to my child but I feel that as a citizen of the area that the best way to protect my fellow citizens who are at higher risk is to find as much of this in the community as possible,” said Dr. Alweis.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray is a pediatrician at Golisano Childrens Hospital. She said for the most part we’ve been testing children with symptoms and we don’t have a lot of data on those asymptomatic cases.

“Getting more data is gonna be beneficial because I think it will help to further prove that the schools are doing a great job and hopefully this can move us closer to having more schools open,” Dr. Murray said.

Graupman said if the rate continues to go up, having to test 100% of students and staff to go back in person would be a huge undertaking.

“We’re gonna blow up schools in terms of their normal procedures to get testing in place and we can do that for 20% within this yellow. If we go to an orange or a red I struggle with, again, taking on more of the burden from the community to try to get kids back to school when the community necessarily hasn’t brought that rate down,” Graupman said.

Graupman said Greece won’t start testing until the end of next week after doing a couple days of pilot testing. She needs 1,800 consenting people per school building in Greece to reach that 20%.

She also said they are looking into adding after school or weekend hours for testing if a family member wants to be with their child for the test.

MORE | Why opting out of student COVID-19 testing in Monroe County schools is discouraged

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