ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Unvaccinated teachers and school staff members in New York State are required to submit weekly Covid-19 testing. However, with a growing number of breakthrough cases, some local teachers are questioning whether the policy is outdated.
If the requirement is not met by NYS teachers, they risk losing their job. More than halfway into the school year, unvaccinated teachers have gotten used to the weekly testing requirement but now with a rising number of breakthrough cases, some local teachers said the policy is “useless” at this point.
Denell Knaub has been getting tested weekly for Covid as required by her employer, the Rochester City School District, for all unvaccinated employees.
“The testing is not a big deal, it just takes a few minutes, however, I have only felt since the testing started that it was just very hypocritical that I had to be tested because I chose to not be vaccinated whereas I have a lot of coworkers who are vaccinated who don’t have to be tested,” Knaub said.
According to the State Department of Health, in early December, the percentage of cases in those fully-vaccinated was 1.17%. One month later, it was up to 4.9%. Now, with breakthrough cases on the rise, Knaub said the state’s policy needs to be reevaluated.
“They say if you are vaccinated, you could be carrying Covid and not know it. You could be asymptomatic and it’s just kind of ironic that other people who could possibly be carrying Covid don’t have to be tested and could be coming to work and infecting others,” Knaub said.
Jason Valenti is a 5th-grade teacher in the Rochester City School District and was vaccinated back in February of last year. While he said he believes vaccination works, the state’s testing requirements mean nothing now that breakthrough cases are populating.
“I would say the amount of breakthrough cases that we’re seeing every day are starting to show that the testing of asymptomatic unvaccinated people is not, possibly not worth its weight in gold, is possibly not worth doing anymore,” Valenti said.
According to the CDC, breakthrough cases are typically mild and rarely result in hospitalization. However, those infected after vaccination can still spread COVID-19 to others.
“I would most likely have symptoms if I were to contract Covid whereas people around me could be carrying it, and interacting with kids, with staff, and not even know it,” Knaub said.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said he does expect requirements on this state policy to change at some point, but that point isn’t now.
“Our numbers are starting to go down. I would expect at some point guidelines are going to be adjusted but I think this is right for right now for the health and safety of our students and our teachers and our faculty,” Bello said, “I don’t know when that is going to be readjusted but the pandemic is changing every day, guidelines change but at this point that will probably continue to be the rule going forward for the foreseeable future.”
The New York State Department of Health responded with the following statement, saying in part:
“The New York State Department of Health continues to encourage all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as eligible in order to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. We have provided millions of tests to schools across the state to help identify cases and protect students, teachers, faculty and the community. Schools and the communities they serve have a clear interest in working to keep employees from being exposed to COVID-19 so as to prevent devastating infections and avoid both stress on the healthcare system and the need to revert to remote instruction. Despite an increase in breakthrough infections, unvaccinated staff remain at increased risk of infection compared to vaccinated staff.”