Oneida County releases reopening guidelines for schools

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UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) — Oneida County released its reopening guidelines for schools, and while these guidelines aren’t required just yet Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente strongly encourages schools to listen to them.

“As we’re rolling out right now and I keep going back to the fact that these are recommendations,” Picente said. “They could become mandates at some appropriate point and whether it’s on the local public health order or whether it’s on a state order.”

The 2021-2022 school reopening guidelines released by the county, outline ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19. First and foremost the county strongly recommends vaccines especially as cases continue to rise in the county, state and across the country.

“Encouraging again can’t stress enough vaccinations of all staff in the schools,” Picente said. “And I know that’s hard but it really would make life easier all around and alleviate those concerns.”

The delta variant and the slowing of vaccination rates in the county have caused cases to jump in the last two months. At the end of June, Oneida County averaged 1.7 cases a day with a positivity rate of 0.3%. As of Aug 12, the county was averaging 37 cases a day with a positivity rate of 3.6%. Based on guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the county is recommending indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors regardless of vaccination status. 

“Vaccines, masks, you know continue the practices that have been in place and let’s see what happens,” Picente said. “You know by the time school starts it may be a different scenario.”

The county also recommends social distancing of at least 3 feet and screening testing. When a positive case is identified schools are required to call the Oneida County Health Department using the back to school hotline, next steps will be taken in regards to contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

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