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School district prepares for Covid-19 wave

Administrators seek testing capabilities

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, Baldwin School District administrators and Board of Education trustees met virtually on Dec. 9 to share updates with the community, including that the district has had no recorded cases of Covid-19 transmission in the schools.

There were 1,463 positive Covid-19 cases in Baldwin as of Dec. 14, according to Nassau County.

“The positivity rate in our community is significantly lower than many communities around us,” Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi said. “The positivity rate in our schools is even lower than that.”

Of all of the positive cases that the district has seen, when staff conducted contact tracing, they found that there was no connection between any two of them, except when they involved siblings, Camhi said.

“There’s no overlap at all between contact of those people,” she said. “In every single case so far in our Baldwin schools, 100 percent of those cases are related back into the community. They have gotten it from family, an event in the community, a family gathering.”

That shows, she added, that the district’s contact tracing and safeguards, including social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, are working.

“I’m very proud to say that, in Baldwin, we have not had to close schools for a single day this school year,” Camhi said. “That should be a point of pride for everybody in our community.”

The school buildings are cleaned at least twice daily, she continued, and frequently touched surfaces are washed constantly.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that our schools stay open but that our schools stay open safely.”

Additionally, she shared the district’s plans to adhere to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s guidance about micro-cluster zones.

The initiative, according to a news release from Cuomo’s office, divides clusters and the areas around them into three categories with successively higher restrictions within each one: red zones, orange zones and yellow zones.

A geographic area can be designated a yellow zone, for example, if it has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 3 percent or above for 10 days and is in the top 10 percent in the state for hospital admissions per capita over the last week and is experiencing week-over-week growth in daily admissions.

“It’s the infection rate in your community that matters, and that’s why we talk about micro-clusters,” Cuomo said in a news release. “Influence your family’s behavior and your community’s behavior and be a Covid change agent in your community. We’re social beings, and it’s also the high season of social activity. That is a bad combination, and it is always the combination of events that creates the major issues.”

“It may be that the school finds itself in the orange zone of the community or in the red zone of the community or in the yellow zone of the community,” Camhi said, “and so if any one of our schools is designated within a zone, in order to stay open, we are required by the governor to do Covid testing.”

The district, she said, is examining potential contracts with health care providers who would partner with the district.

“We’ve identified two medical organizations that can do that testing for us,” Camhi said, adding that district officials have narrowed down the search to two or three different vendors. One of the conditions, she said, is that there is no charge to the district “because we don’t have extra funding to go around.”

A certain percentage of district families would have to sign testing consent forms, depending on whether the zone is designated yellow, orange or red.

“We will go through all of the steps necessary to get the consent to be able to stay open, but ultimately, it’s going to lie in the hands of the community to consent,” Camhi said. “One of the reasons why we are not completed with this yet is because it would be my preference that whatever test we use is as non-invasive as possible.”

Saliva tests are now more widely available than earlier this year, she noted, but there is also the option to use a low nasal swab or high nasal swab. “So we have taken a little bit more time to try and partner with an organization that will do the kind of test that is the least invasive possible.”