Updated Quarantine Requirements, Test-to-Stay to Help WP Schools

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New state guidelines adopted by the Westchester County Department of Health related to isolation and quarantine requirements for students exposed to COVID-19 and a forthcoming Test-to-Stay program will help White Plains Public Schools minimize potential disruptions due to the Omicron surge, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca said at this month’s Board of Education Meeting.

Students (regardless of vaccination status) who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for at least five days and can return to school after their symptoms have subsided.

Students who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for at least five days, whereas asymptomatic students who are vaccinated and have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine.

Unvaccinated, asymptomatic students are eligible to participate in the Test-to-Stay program only for in-school exposures with parent or guardian consent to attend school during the five-day quarantine period.

Dr. Joseph Ricca, Superintendent WPCSD

“That’s going to be a bit of a game-changer from where we are presently in terms of students who are being caught in contact traces,” Ricca said. “Now that doesn’t mean that students who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of potential illness are going to have a shorter quarantine period. This is initially for asymptomatic contact trace students in schools.”

While cases are significantly higher in Westchester County due to Omicron, Ricca said the school district is not currently seeing community spread in its facilities, which is a positive sign.

“Keeping our classrooms and our schools safe has always been our number one priority,” Ricca said. “I think the district has done not a perfect job but a great job in being able to minizine potential spread within our facilities.”

He estimated that of students who have taken advantage of testing through the district, positive cases currently hover between five to eight percent.

“We do have a big increase in folks who are taking advantage of our rapid PCR testing, and we are going to continue to work with our provider to continue that testing,” Ricca said. “Couple that with Test-to-Stay, we think that will be helpful.”

To support the Test-to-Stay program, the state will be sending additional rapid tests to the district.

“Once that program is up and running, we do think that is going to do a lot to help parents and guardians be able to count on their children being in person every day,” Ricca said.

While Ricca noted it is difficult to imagine given the holiday surge, he underscored that the district will continue asking the state to begin thinking about an off-ramp for current guidelines when cases in New York subside.

“We’ll continue to make sure that our voices are heard when the state is promulgating [future] guidelines,” Ricca said.

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