ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Schools districts across the Finger Lakes Region — including the Rochester City School District — are asking students to test for COVID-19 before they return.
The Rochester Teachers Association are asking parents to think about the health of teachers and their households who are immunocompromised and at a higher risk.
“There is understandably a lot of anxiety for teachers, and for parents about returning to school with such a high contagion rate,” Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanksi said. “Children are still effective carriers.”
The RTA says another 25,000 KN95 masks and rapid test kits are being distributed to schools by Monday. But worry if not enough precautions are taken, the district might have to go back to remote learning.
“We are not pushing for remote learning right now,” Urbanksi explained. “We will be pushing very strongly for remote learning if we see that they are failing to make the environment safe, or a continuing increase of infection rates.”
So far positive COVID-19 cases are rising at a record setting pace. As of December 29th, The Finger Lakes Region 7-day average totaled 877, and pediatricians worry those soon turn into more hospitalizations.
“Our children’s hospital only has about 74 beds, 24 or so of those are for pediatric ICU patients,” Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a Pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital, told us. “So, adding five or six highly infectious children to the hospital is actually a big deal. Because there isn’t necessarily as much flex space.”
But test kits are still hard to come by. Local pediatricians are constantly finding themselves on hold after going through their first delivery of Covid-19 tests quicker than they anticipated.
“The companies haven’t been able to produce enough and I think there prioritizing getting the hospitals and labs there tests first,” Dr. Edward Lewis said. “If people need a rapid turnaround to fleet center or another county testing site. I’ve increased my order every month but they’re not available.”
With less than 21% of elementary level students fully vaccinated, plus only 57% of middle and high schoolers with both doses in the Finger Lakes Region, doctors remind the best weapon to ensure a safe return to school is still vaccine.
Doctors do warn they sometimes can produce false negatives so it’s important to take two when the boxes come in pairs.