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Testing & Tracing

Read the full DOE/UFT agreement regarding COVID-19 testing and tracing policies 

Where can students and teachers get a COVID-19 test?

The UFT and the DOE encourages all students and school-based staff to get tested at regular intervals throughout the pandemic. New York City will prioritize testing for public school students and staff and promises to provide rapid communication of test results at 22 city-run testing locations. All these sites are walk-in only. The DOE website lists the locations and operation hours for the sites giving priority to DOE employees. All DOE employees should bring an ID and proof of their DOE employment status with them to get tested.

Will students and teachers be tested randomly throughout the school year? How will this work?

Once in-person learning has commenced, the DOE will implement a robust program of mandatory random testing at school buildings on a monthly basis starting Oct. 1. The NYC Test and Trace Corps and city Department of Health will provide kits to each school each month to collect specimens and will work with the DOE to collect specimens on site in each school each month. Specimen collection will be conducted or supervised by appropriate personnel.

Read the complete school testing policy agreement »

How many people in a school building will be tested each month?

The percentage of individuals to be tested will be determined by the number of students enrolled in the school who have opted into blended learning in order to create a statistically significant sample size:

  • 20% of the individuals in schools with fewer than 500 students
  • 15% of the individuals in schools with 500 to 999 students
  • 10% of the individuals in schools with 1000+ students

The percentage of staff tested and the frequency of testing will rise significantly in schools in any zip code that reports a percentage of positive tests of 3% or higher using a 7-day rolling average

Will COVID testing be free of charge for students and staff members?

Yes. New York City will make COVID-19 testing readily available for all its residents, including children, at over 200 locations across all five boroughs free of charge. It will be a nasal swab test (but not deep down your nasal cavity) and results will be returned in 48 hours.

What happens if I receive a "red light" result from the new DOE Health Screening app?

All DOE visitors, and families seeking to enter DOE buildings must complete a health screening before entering DOE facilities. This health screening must be completed on each day of arrival and results will reset at midnight each day. Upon entering the facility you will be asked to provide the results of your screening either by showing your phone or a printout of the results. If a member answers one or more of the health screening questions on the app that causes a red light, they may not enter the building. Instead, they should save the screen shot with their results and go home. 

Must students and staff notify the DOE if they have tested positive for COVID-19, even if they have taken a test independently and not through the city?

Students and staff are required to report any positive test result, either taken independently or through this random COVID-19 testing program, to the DOE and must consent to have their results shared with city health agencies.

What steps will be taken if a member of a school community tests positive for COVID?

Students or staff found to have the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, will be quarantined for 14 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to school immediately to determine potential contacts.

Are COVID-19 test results confidential?

Test results are confidential. If you test positive, you'll receive a call from a Tracer who will:

  • Determine if you need more medical attention
  • Help you arrange isolate at home or at a free hotel
  • Create a list of everyone you had contact with since shortly before the onset of symptoms

The information that the NYC Test & Trace Corps receives through contact tracing is confidential and protected under the New York City Health Code.

What benchmarks will be used to decide to close school buildings if COVID cases are discovered?

The presence of a COVID-19 case or cases confined to one class will result in the entire class moving to remote instruction; more than one case in a school will mean that the entire school will move to remote instruction until the contact tracing is completed.

What benchmarks will be used to decide whether to close the entire NYC public school system?

In order for school buildings to reopen and stay open, the percentage of positive tests in New York City must be less than 3% using a seven-day rolling average. That threshold is just one trigger. A decision to close all of the school buildings in the city would be made if there were recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools, even if the overall case rates across New York City were to remain low.

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

The New York State Department of Health has created a COVID Report Card for every school district in the state. The site tracks positive cases of school and staff by school and district and is updated every 24 hours. To access this information, go to SchoolCovidReportCard.health.ny.gov and click on “Public Schools” to enter your school or district.

Are UFT members required to participate in monthly COVID testing at their school buildings? What are the consequences if they decline to participate?

Staff in all UFT titles will be required to participate in the Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools program. If a UFT member is selected for random testing and refuses, they will go on unpaid leave. Other school staff will also be asked and are expected to participate in the Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools program.

What is the legality of being mandated to get tested for COVID-19?

An employer may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before initially permitting them to enter the workplace and/or periodically to determine if their presence in the workplace poses a direct threat to others. You can read more about the legality of testing at the EEOC's COVID-19 page

Are students required to participate in monthly COVID testing at school buildings? What are the consequences if they decline to participate?

Yes. Schools will obtain written parental /guardian consent for students to be tested in school from every possible student/parent at the beginning of the school year and continuously throughout the school year, including consent to have results shared with the appropriate city agencies. Parents will be informed that if a parent/guardian refuses to provide consent for a student who has been selected randomly for testing, the student will be moved to the remote learning cohort.

What if a student does not return their consent form for testing?

Any student enrolled in blended learning could be selected for testing. At the beginning of the school year, if a selected student’s parent/guardian has not provided consent, that student will be replaced in the sample by a similarly situated student for whom the school has the consent form. If it is determined that a school does not have sufficient student consent forms to put together a statistically valid sample size, parents who have not provided consent will again be asked for their consent at the time their child is selected for testing. If consent is not provided at that time, the student will be placed in a fully remote learning setting until they get tested.

Does a positive test result for a school employee or student need to be confirmed by the city's Department of Health before contact tracing begins?

Under the UFT's Sept. 1 safety agreement with City Hall, the city Department of Health does not have to confirm a positive case in a school. If a UFT member receives a positive test result, you should send an email to your principal and your chapter leader with written documentation from your doctor or a copy of the lab result. After someone self-reports with this written documentation, that constitutes a confirmed case and contact tracing should begin immediately according to our agreement.