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State requires all teachers to be tested weekly if not vaccinated

State requires all teachers to be tested weekly if not vaccinated

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Working with students

Earth science teacher Amanda Balisteri teaches her students on the first day of school at Veronica E. Connor Middle School in Grand Island.

All teachers and staff in New York preK-12 schools must be tested weekly for Covid-19 unless they can show proof of vaccination under a regulation issued Thursday by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

Settings such as schools "pose increased challenges and urgency for controlling the spread of this disease because of the vulnerable populations served," and the number of children who are not eligible for the vaccine, according to the health commissioner.

"Regular Covid-19 testing enables the immediate identification of Covid-19-positive individuals, even if they are not symptomatic, so that they can isolate and prevent further transmission," Zucker said in his formal determination about the screening and diagnostic testing.

The testing requirement for teachers and staff is for areas with low to high transmission rates.

Zucker also is requiring schools to offer weekly testing to unvaccinated students in areas of moderate, substantial or high transmission rates.

All of Western New York has a high transmission rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, except for Wyoming County, which has a substantial transmission rate.

Zucker said schools also must have the capacity to test students, teachers and staff who have symptoms, or are asymptomatic following exposure to someone exposed to the coronavirus. That diagnostic testing is required regardless of vaccination status or community transmission rate.

Schools are to make daily reports to the state on testing and positive test results.

Students, teachers and staff with new or worsening symptoms cannot be in school, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Delta variant is approximately twice as transmissible as the early Covid-19 strain, Zucker said. 

"Since early July, cases have risen 10-fold, and 95% of sequenced recent positives in New York State were the Delta variant," according to Zucker.

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