At the moment in Tompkins County, hairdressers and massage therapists are required to undergo periodic surveillance testing for COVID-19, but teachers and school staff are not. In Onondaga County, the county health department is working with all the schools to develop a plan for such testing—but there is no evidence of any efforts on this matter in Tompkins County. Cornell and IC are also planning to monitor students and staff with testing, but our youngest citizens and our essential school staff are being left out of this vital public health measure.
I am a parent of two children who attend Ithaca city schools. I have read the ICSD’s reopening plan and see that it follows most current guidance. However, a key factor is missing. As we have all learned, transmission by asymptomatic individuals is driving this outbreak. The current plan, which monitors for visible illness, will fall apart quickly without a mechanism to catch and control asymptomatic carriers. Surveillance testing is an absolutely necessary component of any plan to bring people together at the moment. When cases are detected, we need to provide compassionate support for positive individuals to isolate, and treatment if their illness becomes active. This will keep our children and school teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and building care staff safe.
I understand that CDC guidance is discouraging testing for COVID-19 in school staff. This is criminal. I am sure that will be expensive and logistically difficult. However, it is the right thing to do, and Tompkins County must develop quickly a smart and effective plan. Our collective health depends on it.