Local schools prepare for vaccines

Teachers and school staff in the Twin Counties are receiving vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus. Courtesy of Tribune News Service

HUDSON — Some local schools are preparing for teachers and staff to be inoculated against COVID-19.

The Columbia County Department of Health is holding a vaccine POD, or point of distribution, targeted primarily at inoculating teachers and school staff.

“Greene County vaccinated their teachers right out of the chute,” Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said. “The first allocations they got they did their teachers, so they got them knocked off and now we’re vaccinating them, so we’re kind of coming at it now.”

Columbia County has been holding targeted vaccine PODs for specific eligible groups of the population, Mabb said. Last week the county was able to vaccinate a group of grocery store employees.

The county this week expects to receive 100 doses of the vaccine. The majority of those doses will be used for school employees.

Each of Columbia County’s six school districts will receive 12 doses of the vaccine and the county’s Questar III program employees will be allocated six vaccine doses at this week’s POD. A number of school employees will receive their second dose at additional vaccine PODs this week.

In January, New York expanded its COVID vaccination eligibility to people in the 1B category including school teachers and staff members.

Greene County has inoculated some school employees.

“I’m not exactly sure of the percentage of how many are vaccinated already, but they are included as part of the 1B essential workers,” said Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore. “We had sent out emails to the superintendents in our districts to have them send us names of their employees.”

Staff members such as school bus drivers and custodians are also eligible, Linger said.

School faculty and staff made up the majority of the individuals who were vaccinated at one of the county’s earlier PODs, Linger added.

“About 750 people were vaccinated that day and the majority of them were school employees,” Linger said.

Several school districts in Columbia County are making necessary preparations for school employees to receive vaccinations.

The Germantown Central School District announced on its website that the district would be learning remotely Feb. 11 and 12 because multiple staff members will be receiving second doses of the vaccine.

“Due to the quantity of staff members who will need to leave the school campus to get vaccinated and the possible side effects from the vaccination, we will be proactive and teach remotely these days,” Germantown Superintendent Benjamin Bragg wrote in a letter to district families Monday. “The Germantown learning community is taking strides toward normalcy by receiving the vaccination to ensure safety for our students and staff.”

Chatham Middle School and High School students in sixth to 12th grade will be learning remotely Feb. 12 to accommodate staff receiving the vaccine. Elementary school students will attend class in person as scheduled, according to the district website.

The New Lebanon Central School District announced there will be a one-hour delay Thursday.

“As a district we have been working hard to help our faculty and staff who are interested find a vaccination as soon as possible,” New Lebanon Superintendent Andrew Kourt wrote in a letter to district families. “Around 50 of our teachers and staff will be getting their second and final vaccination on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. While this is very exciting news, you may have heard that there may be some short-lasting side effects after receiving the second vaccine.”

School districts in the Twin Counties will be on winter recess the week of Feb. 15-19.

Mabb said he is not concerned about students contracting the virus at home on break, but families that travel during that period could potentially pose a risk.

“I worry about travel plans,” Mabb said. “People going to warmer places. I worry about people traveling to Florida, or south in general. I think we’re going to see a slight spike afterwards.”

School districts in other counties have discussed the idea of going remote for the week following February break to lessen the chances of spreading COVID, Mabb said.

The governor’s travel advisory remains in place, he added. Anyone who travels out of state for more than 24 hours is required to get tested prior to returning. Within four days of coming back to the state they must get tested again.

Linger said he does not think the break will have a significant impact on the county’s COVID infection rate, adding a number of students are learning remotely.

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