Ulster County Health Department Adopts Test-to-Stay Policy for Public Schools in Ulster County

The new policy, supported by both the CDC and the NYSDOH, will keep students, teachers, and faculty safe while allowing students who come into contact with exposure but are asymptomatic and test negative over a series of days to continue to attend school

The Ulster County Department of Health will work with all public schools in the county to develop policies, procure testing, and provide technical support for Test-to-Stay implementation

County Executive Pat Ryan emphasizes the program is safe, effective, and keeps students in the classroom

KINGSTON, N.Y. – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan today announced that the Ulster County Health Department will adopt Test-to-Stay practices for public schools in the County. The new policy will keep students, teachers, and faculty safe, while allowing students who come into contact with exposure but are without symptoms and test negative over a series of days to continue to attend school. The Ulster County Health Department will work with schools to develop policies, procure testing, and offer technical support for districts implementing Test-to-Stay. 

“As students return from winter break amidst the Omicron surge, we are committed to keeping our schools open and our kids safely in classrooms. Implementing Test-to-Stay is another proactive step to ensure our schools remain open through this surge, and that our students, teachers, and staff are safe,” County Executive Pat Ryan said. “The pandemic has highlighted not just the obvious importance of schools for our students, but also for the working parents of our community. Following CDC and NYSDOH guidelines, Ulster County will work closely with all of our public schools to provide them the resources needed to implement this proven policy.”

“One objective of all Ulster County school districts was to maximize the number of students who experience in-person instruction with their teachers and classmates on a daily basis,” Ulster BOCES Superintendent Dr. Charles Khoury said. “Under the previous guidance, this has been challenging. With everyone’s cooperation, especially keeping symptomatic students home, the Test-to Stay initiative should allow us to do just that.”

“Kingston Central School District will be participating in the Test-to-Stay program along with Ulster County Department of Health and other schools in Ulster County,” Superintendent of Kingston City Schools Dr. Paul Padalino said. “This program will not only reduce unnecessary quarantines but also keep our students safe by identifying positive cases and limiting the possible spread. It may take a few days for the district to get up and running but we are pleased to have another tool to combat COVID-19 in our schools.” 

Supported by both the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Test-to-Stay has been proven to reduce transmission rates in schools. Schools will be required to adopt district-level policies regarding Test-to-Stay. Policies outlined by the NYSDOH include the following:

  1. The exposure must have occurred in the school setting and while both the person with COVID-19 and exposed person were consistently and properly masked.
  2. The exposed person remains asymptomatic; if the exposed person who is allowed to remain in school through Test-to-Stay develops symptoms, they must be immediately excluded from school per current school guidance.
  3. The exposed person is tested a minimum of three times during the seven-day period following exposure, unless recognition of the exposure is delayed or weekends or school breaks intervene. 

Additionally, policies must include equity planning, so as not to burden parents with the costs of tests, and requirements that tests and test results must be received prior to the beginning of the school day. Policies on Test-to-Stay may vary by the district; each school district has the ability to opt-out of the program. Parents should await guidance from their school district on individual district policies and when they will take effect. 

Last week, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan signed a thirty-day extension to the State of Emergency order originally enacted on November 28th. The extension of the order comes as cases of COVID-19 in Ulster County, driven by the Omicron variant, have more than doubled in the last month. The order, now in effect for an additional thirty days, has allowed Ulster County to rapidly procure over 50,000 at-home kits, bolster countrywide vaccination efforts, and secure a second school specialist from the State to assist with contact tracing. County Executive Pat Ryan has continued to emphasize his goal of responding to the pandemic rapidly in order to keep our schools and local businesses open safely while protecting the community at-large.