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Herkimer County adopting option for students, staff, community to test out of precautionary quarantine early


School students and staff in the Herkimer County region that are placed on precautionary quarantine for an exposure to COVID-19 will soon have the option to return to school three days earlier if they test negative for COVID-19 and remain symptom-free.


The Herkimer County Public Health Department has worked with Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES and schools in the region to begin allowing asymptomatic students, staff and members of the community to “test out of precautionary quarantine” due to a COVID-19 exposure beginning Wednesday, Dec. 1.


“This practice will get students and staff who aren’t infected with COVID-19 back to school sooner, so students can continue their education, while still taking the steps to keep students and staff safe,” Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Sandra Sherwood said.


“This will allow an avenue for all staff and students to get back to school earlier,” Herkimer County Director of Public Health Christina Cain added.


The “test out of precautionary quarantine” option allows asymptomatic residents of Herkimer County who were quarantined in response to a COVID-19 exposure to get tested after the fifth day of quarantine. If the lab-confirmed test result comes back negative and they still haven’t developed symptoms, they can return to school and other activities after the seventh day of quarantine. This would mean they would be in school on the eighth, ninth and 10th days of what is normally a 10-day quarantine.


Students and staff can get this testing done independently at any testing site approved by New York state. Tests also can be given by many of the schools after the fifth day of a precautionary quarantine. Families should contact their individual school districts for scheduling testing in these instances and for more information.


This option is being put in place for all Herkimer County residents including those who attend the following districts: Central Valley, Dolgeville, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Little Falls, Mount Markham, Owen D. Young, Poland, Richfield Springs, Town of Webb, West Canada Valley and Herkimer BOCES programs.


“The option to ‘test out of precautionary quarantine’ is much more manageable and less confusing than other options and a way to fully end quarantines early,” Sherwood said. “This gets students back to class three days earlier without increasing risks or putting unrealistic stresses on the ability to test students for COVID-19.”



Changes to Quarantine Procedure in Herkimer County Moving Forward  


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have endorsed both the “test out of precautionary quarantine” option and a “test to stay” option.


Herkimer County Public Health and school officials are putting the “test out of precautionary quarantine” option into place starting, Wednesday, Dec. 1. The “test to stay” option was deemed to be unfeasible for many reasons including there aren’t enough rapid tests in our schools to be able to test every student and staff member every day after an exposure.


The chart below compares the two options:


  “Test out of precautionary quarantine” “Test to stay” Reason Herkimer County health and school officials prefer “test out of precautionary quarantine”

What is required and how it is applied:


Asymptomatic people can be tested after the fifth day of quarantine, and if they receive a negative lab-confirmed test, the quarantine can be lifted after day seven, if still asymptomatic.


Must remain asymptomatic and test every day for seven days and get a negative result before going to class each day, but quarantine is in effect outside of academic hours.


“Test out of precautionary quarantine” works better for students for many reasons including that it could shorten quarantines overall – which lets kids get back to school and other activities sooner.


Type of precautionary quarantine:


ANY exposure, in school, in public, at home, to someone with COVID-19.


Only when a student is exposed to someone with COVID-19 in a classroom.


“Test out of precautionary quarantine” works with more types of exposures to someone with COVID-19, such as on a school bus, during sports, extracurricular activities, or family or social gatherings.


Number of tests required per person:


One test (after the fifth day of quarantine) – and it can be done by any New York state-approved testing lab (not just school).


Seven tests per person (one per day for the first seven days of quarantine) at school before they can come into the building each day.


Right now, there are only about 800 rapid tests available in the schools across Herkimer County and about 356 students or staff are on precautionary quarantine. If all of them were tested every day for seven days, the supply of tests would run out in about two days.  By using only one test per person, schools can keep up, as more tests are delivered.


Quarantine ending:


Can end after the seventh day.


Remains in effect for the full 10 days except for during school hours (with no extracurricular or social activities allowed).


The “test out of precautionary quarantine” option can get asymptomatic students and staff completely out of quarantine after seven days, instead of only during academic hours for the “test to stay” option.


Where testing occurs:


Anywhere someone can normally get tested for COVID-19; including possibly at school.


Testing conducted in school before they can come into the building.


Testing in school means students would have to get to school each day (on the bus for some students) and then could be sent home if they test positive. This might result in additional precautionary quarantines for other students who ride those buses.


Staff required:


If any tests are conducted by school staff, it would be done by one school nurse once per person.


Every daily test for seven days would be performed by school nurses for each student, and someone would have to supervise the students while they wait 15-minutes for the results.


The number of school staff available for in-school testing on a daily basis is not available.