Onondaga Co. will test grouped saliva of teachers and students throughout school year

Back to School

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — School districts across New York State have until Friday to update their reopening plans with a testing and tracing strategy, which was a newly added requirement by the governor.

Most districts will need to rely on their local health departments to meet that expectation.

In Onondaga County, the school superintendents have had almost-daily conversations with the Onondaga County Executive’s Office to form a coordinated plan.

On Wednesday, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon told NewsChannel 9 his departments are finalizing plans to offer traditional swab-up-the-nose testing to any teacher, school staff member or high school student who wants it.

The diagnostic testing will be done, using the county’s newly acquired rapid testing, just days before school begins. With results expected back in 24 to 36 hours, it will attempt to ensure anyone who attends school the first day will be COVID-free.

Once the school year begins, the Onondaga County Health Department will deploy an innovation developed locally at Upstate Medical University referred to as “pool testing.”

One person’s saliva sample is grouped together with saliva of their classmates and teacher, which is tested as one big mega-sample. If the sample is negative, nobody has coronvirus. If any COVID-19 is detected, the group is either quarantined or further tested to narrow down the sick people.

When it comes to contact tracing, it will be the responsibility of the Onondaga County Health Department, as it has been throughout the pandemic. School districts will be asked to supply class lists to determine who students and teachers are in contact with.

The county executive says his team and superintendents are still working on which group contacts people with information about positive cases and instructs people to quarantine.


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For more local news, follow Andrew Donovan on Twitter @AndrewDonovan.

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