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Q&A on the Issues

COVID-19 in-school testing

New York Teacher
Student with facial shield and mask at computer

Health care professionals from SOMOS Community Care Network tested teachers and students at Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School in Harlem when in-person classes resumed on Dec. 7.

As schools across the city reopen, here are answers to your frequently asked questions about current COVID-19 testing procedures and policies. The city has agreed to more frequent and aggressive testing, which is now mandated and administered weekly. This more intensive level of testing is the school system’s early warning system, but the most important things that will keep school communities safe are the safety and health protocols UFT members fought for in September.

How does school-based COVID-19 testing work?

The NYC Test and Trace Corps works with the Department of Education to collect specimens on site in each school each week. The DOE’s testing partners test a randomly selected group of staff and students at schools each week. The city has contracted three entities to do the testing: BioReference Laboratories, Fulgent Genetics and SOMOS Community Care. The COVID-19 test used in schools involves inserting a small swab, similar to a Q-Tip, into the front of the nose.

All DOE testing partners have promised that any specimen collected will be used for the sole purpose of COVID-19 testing and results will only be reported to the person tested (or, if a minor, the parent or guardian) and public health authorities, including the state Department of Health, the city Department of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Health and Hospitals’ NYC Test and Trace program, as required or permitted by law.

How do I find out if my result is positive or negative after being tested at school?

If you test positive, the testing provider will contact you by phone between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. You will also receive a call from the NYC Test and Trace Corps, which will share additional resources. Students or staff found to have the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, must quarantine for 14 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to the school immediately to determine potential contacts.

If you test negative, you will receive an email with your test results within three days.

If you do not receive your results after three days, contact the provider that visited your school:

As of Dec. 7, all schools have 20% of in-person students and staff tested each week. Under the previous protocol, up to 20% of students and staff were tested monthly.

Person with protective clothing and vial

A health professional from SOMOS bags a collection tube with a nasal swab from a virus test.

How can I see COVID-19 testing data related to my school?

The New York State Department of Health has created a COVID-19 Report Card for every school and district in the state. The site tracks all positive cases of COVID-19 over time, a school’s current COVID-19 zone, seven-day data trends, dates of on-site tests and total population tested. Access this information and click on “Public Schools” to enter your school or district.

What will happen if positive cases are discovered in my school building?

If a single case of COVID-19 is discovered within a classroom, the room will be cleaned and closed for 24 hours. All students in the class and staff deemed to have had close contact must quarantine for 14 days. Other classes using the same room will return to the classroom once it has been cleaned. If two or more linked cases in a classroom or classrooms are found in the same school, the rooms are cleaned and closed for 24 hours. All students in the class and affected staff are quarantined for 14 days. If two or more apparently unrelated cases of COVID-19 are discovered in a school, the school will go remote during the tracing process. If the tracers cannot determine a link between those cases, the building will remain closed for two weeks.

Are students in District 75 tested for COVID-19?

Yes, they are. Students with disabilities may be granted an exemption from being tested in school. The exempted student must still be tested if selected for the random sample, but the responsibility will rest with the parent or guardian to have the child tested by a private physician or at a city test site.

How is the testing process modified for District 75 students?

School nurses, not private vendors, coordinate and administer tests for District 75 students. In order to ensure proper procedure, school nurses completed specialized training for COVID-19 testing.

Are students permitted to participate in in-person learning if they have not returned a signed consent form for COVID-19 testing?

All students in grade 1 or higher must have a consent form or exemption form on file. The DOE has told principals that students must otherwise be moved to fully remote instruction.

Which students are not being tested?

Students in 3K, pre-K and kindergarten are not being tested. In addition, anyone has a right under the law to claim a medical exemption in the rare circumstance that a health or medical condition makes COVID-19 testing impossible.