Glens Falls school officials will start testing students and staff next week in an effort to safely reopen all of the buildings. Grades 7-12 are currently virtual-only.
The district is not required to do so, but other districts including South Glens Falls Central Schools, have also turned to coronavirus testing.
The goal of the testing is to “balance our overwhelming desire to get back to in-person learning with the stark realities of the COVID pandemic,” Superintendent Paul Jenkins said in a letter to the community.
On Tuesday, a random sample of fifth and sixth graders, teachers and staff will be given the COVID-19 rapid test.
“This is the simple, quick, shallow nasal swab test,” Jenkins said.
Parents have filled out consent forms already. Students will be chosen randomly from among those with permission forms.
On Thursday and Friday, the school district will test 15% of the elementary-age children, as well as some high school students who are going in-person to hands-on classes that can’t be done remotely.
Families will be notified in advance if their child has been selected for testing.
“If these initial results show a low positivity rate within our school community, the district will consider a return to hybrid/in-person learning for grades 7-12 on Monday, Jan. 25,” Jenkins said.
When asked what would be considered a low rate, he said that he would discuss the matter with Warren County Health Services if anyone tests positive.
The tests would also help him create a “benchmark” for the district, so that he can act quickly if cases rise above that level.
“If new positive cases or quarantines increase, we will immediately revert to all-remote instruction,” he said.
If grades 7-12 can return to in-person school, students will be randomly tested on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26.
“We are hopeful that the completion of staff member quarantines, baseline testing of 15% of our in-person individuals, and a super-strict adherence to hand-washing, 6-plus feet of social distancing and all-day mask-wearing will allow our in-person learning to resume as safely as possible,” Jenkins said.
Other districts are also struggling to stay open. Argyle schools went virtual Friday, after an announcement late Thursday night that a person in the elementary school had tested positive. The person was last in the building on Jan. 11.
Hadley-Luzerne is reopening on Tuesday, after a closure due to multiple cases.
But Ballston Spa schools are staying virtual for another week. Since Friday, 34 students and staff have tested positive. In addition, 130 people have been quarantined. The district doesn’t have the staff to hold in-person classes next week, school officials reported.
Ballston Spa and Glens Falls staff and students were exposed to coronavirus due to a house party held in the home of teachers from both districts.
Queensbury continued to have multiple cases as well, but no buildings are closing because the superintendent is confident that no one is catching the virus from others at school. Three people who were in the high school, two on Jan. 8 and one on Jan. 11, have tested positive.
In the Capital Region, Glens Falls Hospital has vaccinated the most employees, with 85.5% of its workers vaccinated. At Saratoga Hospital, 69.3% have been vaccinated.
Throughout the Capital Region, 65% of health care workers have been vaccinated, and 11.7% declined the vaccine when they were offered it.
The region is second-highest in getting doses into arms, with 87% of the doses already used and more being used every day. At Saratoga Hospital and Glens Falls Hospital, 100% of the doses allotted have been used. Hudson Headwater Health Network’s Queensbury offices have also used 100% of their doses, and the network’s newest local office, Moreau Family Health, was highlighted as using the fewest of its doses, even though the facility had used 86% of the doses so far.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo chuckled as he read the list at Friday’s press conference. In other regions, the lowest performers had used about 20% of their doses.
“In the Capital Region, 86% is a lower performer? Now, 86% is a lot higher than many facilities,” he said.
There’s reason to move quickly, he added: “The faster sites will get more.”
Saratoga County is joining a national tribute that will be held Jan. 19. On that date, all county buildings will be lit at 5:30 p.m. Churches are also encouraged to ring their bells.
In Washington, the Presidential Inaugural Committee will illuminate the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at 5:30 p.m. It is the first time the Reflecting Pool has been illuminated to memorialize American lives lost, the committee said.
In Saratoga County, buildings will remain illuminated all night.
“It is a very fitting tribute to all those lost from the county due to COVID-19,” said Matthew Veitch, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He proposed that the county join the national memorial service.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz also wants to create a permanent memorial to those who have died from coronavirus.
“This national tribute is a great first step in memorializing family, friends and neighbors who, sadly, have been lost to the virus during this global pandemic,” he said.
- Warren County reported 43 new cases, for a total of 1,850 confirmed cases since March, and 60 recoveries, for a total of 1,329 recoveries among confirmed cases. There are 477 people currently ill, nine of whom are hospitalized, the same number as Thursday.
- Washington County reported 32 new cases, for a total of 1,325 confirmed cases since March, and 55 recoveries, for a total of 1,071 recoveries. There are 237 people currently ill, and seven are hospitalized, which is the same as Thursday.
- Essex County reported 25 new cases, for a total of 799 cases since March. There are 143 people currently ill, and 12 people are hospitalized, up four from Thursday. One of the new cases is another resident of the Champlain Valley Senior Community.
- Glens Falls Hospital reported 40 coronavirus patients, an increase of five. Three patients are in intensive care. Seven patients are no longer contagious, but not well enough to be discharged.
- Saratoga Hospital reported 61 coronavirus patients, the same number as Thursday.
For Thursday, the most recent day for which the following data was available:
- Saratoga County reported four more deaths, for a total of 69, but gave out no details.
- Saratoga County also reported 217 new cases, for a total of 8,461 confirmed cases since March. There were 16 recoveries, for a total of 4,709 recoveries. There are 3,684 people currently ill and 93 are hospitalized, the same as on Tuesday.
- In the northern Saratoga County towns, new cases: five town of Corinth residents (for a total of 45), one Hadley resident (for a total of 17), six Moreau residents (for a total of 178), four Northumberland residents (for a total of 80), three town of Saratoga residents (for a total of 48), three South Glens Falls residents (for a total of 37), and 25 Wilton residents (for a total of 239).
- Still ill: 40 town of Corinth residents, 36 village of Corinth residents, 16 Hadley residents, 172 Moreau residents, 76 Northumberland residents, 45 town of Saratoga residents, 17 Schuylerville residents, 34 South Glens Falls residents, 14 Victory residents and 214 Wilton residents.
- Recovered: one village of Corinth resident.
- The Capital Region reported a total of 1,121 new cases, for a positive test rate of 6.9%, which brought the weekly average to 7.9%.
- Warren County had a positive test rate of 8.6% and a weekly average of 7%.
- Washington County had a positive test rate of 5.9% and a weekly average of 5.5%.
- Saratoga County had a positive test rate of 7% and a weekly average of 8.8%.
- Essex County had a positive test rate of 6.5% and a weekly average of 5.4%.
- Statewide, 19,942 people tested positive, a positive test rate of 6.14%.
- There were 8,808 people hospitalized Thursday with coronavirus and 183 people died. In the Capital Region, 525 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, representing 0.05% of the population, and 75% of the region’s hospital beds were in use.