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Dutchess County Continues to Assist School Districts Prepare for New School Year

Published: 8/24/2020

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus, Communications Director

(845) 486-2000

Poughkeepsie, NY … As school districts throughout Dutchess County prepare to begin the 2020-21 school year amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, County Executive Molinaro today reiterated the County’s commitment to assisting districts with their health and safety planning, as well as its testing procedures and policies, and contact tracing plan for local schools.

Since the pandemic first impacted Dutchess County in mid-March, County Executive Molinaro has been in continual contact with district superintendents, apprising them of the latest COVID-related developments, guidelines and protocols; and the County’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH)  has taken proactive steps to assist districts through their re-opening and beyond, once the school year commences in September.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Preparing for the opening of the new school year has been a collaborative process, and Dutchess County has played an active role is ensuring local districts’ leadership has been informed each step in that process. In addition to providing constant communication, hosting virtual training for district staff, planning for student and staff testing, and preparing for contact tracing, Dutchess County will continue to play an active role in assisting districts provide safe environments for both students and staff once the 2020-21 school year begins.”

DBCH’s Rapid Response Team is available to work with schools to conduct contact tracing when local schools report a positive COVID-19 case, as it has been since local colleges have opened.   DBCH has worked with local school districts on the protocol for symptomatic or positive COVID-19 students or staff to ensure the contact tracing process can immediately begin to prevent spread.      

Additionally, DBCH has taken proactive steps to assist districts, including:

•    Providing school districts with information about available testing resources throughout the county.    DBCH maintains an active list of all available testing sites located throughout the County, including the most up-to-date list of providers offering testing, specific criteria for testing at each site and  information including locations, methods of contacting each site, hours of operation, methods of testing and types of tests available.  Those testing resources are available and maintained on Dutchess County’s website 

•    Additionally, Dutchess County worked with Pulse MD Urgent Care to establish a preferred client relationship offering rapid testing for students and school staff with preliminary results in approximately 15 minutes. Pulse MD will offer a separate virtual scheduling que for school nurses to directly schedule visits for testing. These virtual scheduling portals will be established for each interested school district.

Rapid antigen tests can provide a positive result within 15 minutes confirming a positive case and allow for DBCH to partner with schools on rapid response contact tracing to control potential spread. (Note: currently negative results will still require traditional swab tests to confirm all negative rapid test results until improved technology is more widely available.) 

•    Investigating feasibility of bulk purchase of rapid testing supplies for schools to consider purchasing and administering by medical personnel on site.  Ulster County has inquired about a similar bulk purchase should Dutchess County establish a connection to acquire reliable and proven rapid test kits.

•    Hosting online training for school nurses, which included, among other protocols, guidelines for how schools are to:

o    handle students and staff who present with symptoms of COVID-19
o    notify DBCH about positive cases and what information to report
o    allow an individual who has displayed symptoms of COVID-19 to return to school

Dr. Anil Vaidian, DBCH Commissioner, said, “DBCH staff has worked tirelessly for months to prepare for the beginning of the new school year, and we look forward to implementing the plans we have developed to provide the safest educational environment possible. Our department will continue to work with local school districts to ensure safety protocols are followed to assure the health and well-being of students and staff.”