A bipartisan trio of local state lawmakers Thursday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to establish a statewide COVID-19 testing plan for educators, students and staff set to return to schools next month.
State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblymembers Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, jointly signed a letter to Cuomo.
The trio of lawmakers called on Cuomo and his administration to establish a “random testing model” — citing a pool testing system in use at Saratoga Hospital — that would enable more widespread testing access for school districts to utilize.
“Many of the parents, students, teachers and school staff and administrators that we represent understandably have concerns about going back to in-person learning in September,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Cuomo.
Cuomo caused concern and confusion among school district leaders recently when he suggested families should be asking districts about their testing plans – even though state guidelines explicitly recommend against districts conducting testing of students and staff. School districts do have to work with local health departments in the event someone in the schools tests positive for COVID-19, organizing to trace contacts of that person and determine whether other people need to isolate and access testing available in the community.
In their letter, the local lawmakers argue schools should not have to develop their own testing plans — nor pay for testing — but that more access to testing “would help give people peace of mind and keep people safe” as districts plan to reopen schools next month.
Educators and lawmakers have also called for greater clarity over how positive cases will be handled by district and health departments and under what conditions schools should have to close. While administrators are seeking more state health guidelines, teachers unions on Wednesday called for the mandatory 14-day closure of any school building where someone tests positive for the virus.