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Testing & Tracing

Updated school closure policy

What is the new measure for closing schools if positive cases of COVID-19 are discovered?

If any school has two or more positive cases in different classrooms within seven days, in addition to moving those classrooms to remote learning for 10 days, testing will be increased to 40 percent for that school building for the next testing cycle. If four or more cases are found in different classrooms within one school in a seven-day period, and those cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school, the entire school will move to remote learning for 10 days.

Will individual classrooms still shift to remote learning if positive cases are discovered?

Yes, this policy has not changed. If there is a positive case found within a classroom, that classroom must move to remote learning for 10 days. I am in a building with other schools.

When will this new protocol go into effect?

This new protocol will go into effect as of Monday, April 12.

Will we be treated as separate schools or as one campus when it comes to closures?

Co-located schools within buildings will be considered separate from each other, as long as the schools can prove that there is no physical interaction with the other schools.

Once my school moves to a 40% in-person testing rate, how long will it remain at this increased level?

Until testing shows that less than two classrooms in the school building have been affected, the testing rate will stay at 40% of in-person staff and students.

If two or more positive cases in different classrooms have been found at my school, how soon can we expect an increased testing rate of 40%?

At the next scheduled testing date, the rate of in-person staff and students will increase to 40%.

If four or more positive cases of COVID-19 are found in different classes at my school over a seven-day period, will the school building automatically close?

Only if the cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school. If so, then the building would close, and the entire school would move to remote learning for 10 days.

In the context of this plan, is a pod of students grouped together treated the same as a classroom?

Yes, if those students spend the entire school day together. ​

School-based testing

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

Since Dec. 7, 2020, schools that reopened have random testing on site. The NYC Test and Trace Corps works with the DOE to collect specimens on site and their collection is conducted or supervised by appropriate personnel.

The DOE's testing partners test a randomly selected group of staff and students at each school. 3K, Pre-K and kindergarten students are not tested. The exact number of children and staff to be tested depends on the size of the school population. The test is easy, quick, and safe. Instead of the "long swab" that goes in the back of the nose, this test is a short, small swab (like a Q-Tip) that goes just in the front of the nose.

You can see current borough and citywide data on school testing at the DOE website.

How many people in a school building will be tested?

The number of people to be tested will depend on the size of the school, but will consist of 20% of a school’s in-person population, students and staff included. If any school has two or more positive cases in different classrooms within seven days, testing will be increased to 40 percent for that school building for the next testing cycle. 

Will random COVID-19 testing in school buildings continue during summer school?

Yes, with some modifications. Starting July 1, random testing will occur twice a month and 10% of the in-person population of the school will be included in the sample size.

Are students in District 75 tested for COVID-19?

All students in District 75 are required to submit one of the following three forms: a form consenting to be tested, a medical exemption, or a disability-based exemption. Students with a disability-based exemption will need to be tested outside of school.

I was recently tested for COVID-19 as part of the DOE’s random testing program. How and when will I receive my results, and what will happen if I test positive?

You will be contacted by phone or email with your test results at the phone number or email address provided by the DOE to the testing providers. If you test negative, you will receive an email with your test results.

If you test positive:

  • The testing provider will contact you by phone between the hours of 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.
  • You will also receive a call from NYC Test & Trace Corps, who will make you aware of additional resources and recommendations to guide you on next steps, including what you may need to safely stay at home.
  • You will also receive an email with your test results.

If you do not receive your results after 3 days, contact the testing vendor who visited your school:

Are UFT members required to participate in COVID-19 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. They are also required to sign the testing consent form. If a UFT-represented employee is selected for random testing and refuses, that employee will go on unpaid leave until the person takes the test. Employees represented by the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators and school safety agents are also required to participate in the Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools program. Other school staff will be asked and are expected to participate.

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 COVID-19 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.

Why are 3K, pre-K and K students exempt from testing? 

The youngest students are exempt because studies show that they are not significant transmitters of the coronavirus and school officials believed these children would find the test upsetting without a parent present. All 3K, pre-K and kindergarten staff will be tested in every school as part of the random 20% weekly sample.

Have there been changes to the policy requiring students to submit COVID-19 testing consent forms in order to participate in-person instruction?

No. The testing policy for New York City schools has not changed. The New York State Education Department quickly reversed its decision of Feb. 16, 2021 which initially said students were not required to partake in COVID-19 testing as a condition of in-person learning. This clearly violated our safety plan and the decision was overturned. New York City public schools will continue to require consent for COVID-19 testing of students that keeps our schools safe.

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

As of schools' reopening beginning Dec. 7, 2020, all students in grade 1 or higher must submit a consent form signed by a parent or guardian granting permission to be tested by the first day each child returns to the school building. Principals have been instructed that students without a consent form in hand or submitted online will not be allowed to resume in-person learning. The parent or guardian will be called, and the student will be moved to fully remote instruction if consent is not immediately granted. The only exception will be students who are medically exempt and students with disabilities who are granted an exception because they cannot be safely tested at school. 

How can families submit consent forms for COVID-19 testing at schools?

Families can fill out the consent form online using a New York City Schools Account (NYCSA). Parents can also print a PDF of the form, available in 10 languages, on the DOE’s COVID-19 Testing page, and return it to their school on or before the first day their child comes to school.

Are students who are medically exempt from testing required to submit consent forms?

No, but documentation is required to receive an exemption from testing. Any student who needs a medical exemption, due to a health condition that would make it unsafe to undergo testing, must submit an exemption form signed by a physician along with medical documentation from a health care provider. Students with disabilities who cannot be safely tested in school due to the nature of their disability may also be granted an exemption. Exemption forms can be found on the DOE's COVID-19 testing page

If a student has a medical condition which makes COVID-19 testing physically impossible for that student, can they receive an exemption?

Yes, the parent/caregiver of a student with a health condition that would make it unsafe to undergo testing (.e.g., facial trauma, nasal surgery) can use the DOE’s Student Medical Exemption form. This form must be signed by a health care provider and must be approved by the DOE's Office of School Health’s Medical Review Unit to take effect.

If a student has a documented disability that could make school-based COVID-19 testing difficult, can they receive an exemption?

Parents/caregivers of students with disabilities may apply for a disability based exemption from in person testing for their child. The exemption will be granted if the school psychologist determines that school based testing would be dangerous for the student or school/testing personnel or traumatic for the student. Exempted students will still be asked to get tested for COVID-19 outside of school, such as a test administered by a private doctor or a city testing site. An approved DOE Disability-Based Exemption form must be approved by the school's psychologist to receive this exemption and can be found on the DOE's COVID-19 testing page. If exemption requests are denied, students are then required to either submit a consent for testing or choose remote learning.

What happens if a student with a disability who has an approved disability-based exemption on file is selected for random COVID-19 testing at school?

If a student is selected for in-school testing but has an approved disability exemption on file, the student will be asked to get tested outside of school within seven days of notice and must bring test results into school upon completion. Students who submit exemption requests are allowed to attend while their exemption requests are under review for approval. If you need help arranging a test, please see nyc.gov/covidtest or schools.nyc.gov/covidtesting.

If I am selected for random testing at my school, can I have the test done with my private doctor instead? Can a student selected for random testing have the virus test done by a private doctor?

No, those tests will not count as a part of the random testing program. If you are selected as part of the random sample at your school, you must take the test at school. The only exception is for students with a documented disability who also have an approved testing exemption on file and must be tested outside of school. The test used is the less intrusive "short swab" that only goes in the front of the nose.

What happens if a parent expresses disagreement with the school testing policy?

Parent disagreement with the testing policy is not a basis for an exemption or a factor to be considered in reviewing an exemption request.

I am concerned that Fulgent Genetics, one of the vendors contracted by the DOE to conduct random testing at schools, will share my personal information or DNA without my consent. Will my privacy be protected?

All companies under contract with the DOE to conduct school-based random testing — Fulgent, BioReference Laboratories and Somos Healthcare — have promised that any protected information or specimen collected will be used for the sole purpose of COVID-19 testing. These testing vendors will only report test results to the patients (or, if a minor, the parent or guardian), the ordering physician and public health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control, the state Department of Health, the city Department of Health and New York City Health and Hospitals’ NYC Test + Trace program as required or permitted by law. The vendors will not use any subcontractors for testing. To learn more about these privacy and data security commitments, read the vendor agreements on the UFT website. 

Positive cases

What steps will be taken if a member of a school community tests positive for COVID-19?

Students or staff found to have the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, will be quarantined for 10 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to school immediately to determine potential contacts.

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 happens if I receive a "red light" result from the DOE health screening app?

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

The new DOE health screening process contains a question regarding whether or not we have been vaccinated. Isn't this a violation of our privacy? 

The UFT has reviewed the new DOE health screen with our legal team and has determined that there is no HIPAA violation in this case, since you, not a third party, are disclosing this information. In addition, an affirmative answer to this question does not actually indicate that the responder has been vaccinated, it just states that one of the listed conditions has been met. 

What will happen if positive cases are discovered within a school building? 

If any school has two or more positive cases in different classrooms within seven days, in addition to moving those classrooms to remote learning for 10 days, testing will be increased to 40 percent for that school building for the next testing cycle. If four or more cases are found in different classrooms within one school in a seven-day period, and those cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school, the entire school will move to remote learning for 10 days.

Do fully vaccinated staff need to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

Vaccinated people who are exposed to someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet both of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., more than two weeks since receiving the second dose in a two-dose series or more than two weeks since receiving the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine)
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

People who do not meet both of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Why are there different COVID-19 positivity rates each reported by New York State and New York City?

The city and state calculate some testing data differently, such as when tests are tabulated, what types of tests are reported and how positive and negative results are calculated in overall totals. See the chart below for more detailed information on how each health department reports their COVID-19 testing data.

 
  New York City New York State
When positive case is counted On the day the test is taken On the day test result is received
Type of tests counted Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests Antigen AND PCR Tests
Negative Tests Counts only ONE negative test if a person tests negative multiple times in a 7 day period Counts ALL negative tests if a person tests negative multiple times in a 7 day period
Positive Tests Counts ALL positive tests if a person tests positive multiple times in a 7 day period Counts only ONE positive test if a person tests positive multiple times in a 7 day period

New York State COVID-19 testing data and New York City positivity rates can be found online and are updated daily. 

Which positivity rate should I care about?

The state infection rate for New York City is the only number that matters in any decisions involving schools. 

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, 2020 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.

School closures

What benchmarks will be used to decide to close school buildings if COVID-19 cases are discovered?

If four or more cases are found in different classrooms within one school in a seven-day period, and those cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school, the entire school will move to remote learning for 10 days.

If four or more positive cases of COVID-19 are found in different classes at my school over a seven-day period, will the school building automatically close?

Only if the cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school. If so, then the building would close, and the entire school would move to remote learning for 10 days.

Testing data

Where can I find out which schools in the city have reported positive cases of COVID-19? 

The Department of Education launched an online map on Oct. 1 that shows which buildings have active confirmed cases of COVID-19 and which require either temporary classroom or full-building closures. The DOE will be updating the map daily.

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 district in the state. The site tracks positive cases of students 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. 

COVID-19 tests

Is COVID-19 testing free of charge for students and staff members?

Yes. New York City is making 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. 

Are COVID-19 test results confidential?

Test results are confidential. If you test positive, you'll receive a call from a tracer from the NYC Test & Trace Corps who will:

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

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

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. 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.