Report card: No COVID cases at WAJ

COVID data for Greene County schools is available through the state. Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Windham-Ashland-Jewett had no reported COVID cases among students, teachers and staff four weeks after students returned to classrooms, according to the state’s COVID-19 Report Card.

The six school districts in the county, all told, have 46 reported cases, according to the state’s report card, and Coxsackie-Athens had the highest number of cases with 13 (10 students, 2 teachers, 1 staff), followed by Cairo-Durham with 11 (8 students, 2 teachers, 1 staff) and Greenville with 11 (10 students, 1 staff, no teachers), then Catskill with 9 (7 students, 1 teacher, 1 staff) and Hunter-Tannersville with 2 (both students).

All data were reported as of Wednesday, and many districts are also taking it upon themselves to update families on the status of the pandemic.

The state Education Department released a health and safety guide in August with recommended protocols aimed at reopening in the fall.

“The department’s health and safety guide is a concise resource that will assist districts as they mitigate risks to the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff while providing flexibility for schools to address their own unique circumstances in a manner that best meets the needs of all students,” Education Department Chancellor Lester Young said in a statement.

Under the department’s guidelines, the state recommends universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status, social distancing of at least 3 feet and offering a remote option. The guide also urges school districts to promote vaccination against COVID-19 for eligible students. In late August, Gov. Kathy Hochul directed the state Department of Health to institute universal mask requirements in all schools.

The school data were made public as Greene County cases have been on the rise. Greene County Public Health reported 144 active positives Wednesday as well as its 80th death.

Officials said there is no single specific cause for the recent spike other than the rapid rise of the highly contagious delta variant.

After the number of active cases dropped to zero for a couple of days in early June, rates have been rising steadily in Greene County, reaching 100 for the first time in several months on Sept. 16.

“We haven’t had a superspreader event that I know of,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said Sept. 24. “I don’t know if it’s because schools are open, but I am not aware of any big school outbreaks. There are no outbreaks in nursing homes.”

Dr. Gladys I. Cruz, district superintendent for Questar BOCES III which includes the Twin Counties, said the number of cases hasn’t deterred districts despite the more contagious Delta variant.

“Although we’re seeing more cases, it’s very clear that we have the tools to keep the schools open,” she said.

Cruz said those tools include working with county health departments, encouraging students who are eligible to get vaccinated, continuing to follow health and safety guidance as well as weekly surveillance testing. She said Questar is supporting districts in testing athletes, but districts have not yet received testing supplies and are testing athletes with leftover supplies from last year.

Groden said Thursday the ordering of testing has been slower than expected, but schools have been working together to stay open.

“This is just a monumental effort,” he said.

Catskill Central School District has reported nine cases, including five students, two teachers and two staff members, according to the state report card.

Catskill School Superintendent Ronel Cook has been posting information regarding positive cases within the district on the district’s web page. On Sept. 15, Cook informed families about a staff member at Catskill Elementary who tested positive for COVID-19, but no additional people were required to quarantine.

On Sept. 22, Cook reported that two Catskill Elementary students and an employee tested positive. No additional quarantining was required. The district announced Sept. 27 that a middle school student tested positive, and an elementary school student tested positive Sept. 28.

Cairo-Durham Central School District has at least 11 reported cases, according to the report card. The district has also been active on its website, where it reports 14 cases.

Five of the cases were staff and nine were students, according to the district’s website.

“The district will communicate directly with families affected by confirmed COVID-19 cases, but we will not email the entire district following each individual case. We continue to work closely with the Greene County Department of Health and follow their guidance each time our district has a positive case,” according to the website.

Coxsackie-Athens Central School District has 13 reported cases, according to the report card, and the district posts positive cases on its website. The district posted five confirmed cases from Sept. 10-16.

“As part of our commitment to keep our families informed about COVID-19 cases, when cases are confirmed by Greene County Public Health Department they will be posted to this page.” according to a statement from the district. Additionally, the district will communicate directly with families affected by confirmed COVID-19 cases, and we will continue to send our email notices for each new case,” the district said.

Hunter-Tannersville Central School District had two reported student cases, according to the report card.

“For several weeks the delta variant has surged throughout our region. Public health has stated that a large majority of the known cases are the Delta variant. This variant is much more contagious than previous variants,” Superintendent Nate Jones said in a Sept. 14 district update.

“At school we have implemented several mitigation measures, however, we are not bullet proof,” Jones said. “I strongly encourage your family to discuss a family plan in the event that someone in your family needs to quarantine, or a class or school has to move to remote learning.”

Greenville Central Schools had at least 11 cases, according to the report card, while the district reported 13 cases on its website from Sept. 9-29.

Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central Schools has no reported cases, according to the report card.

Cruz said districts were more prepared this year.

“We’re able to keep our schools open right now,” she said.

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