NEW YORK (PIX11) — COVID policies at schools across New York State will be different from last school year, and the year before, with fewer restrictions overall, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday.
She laid out the changes, which she said are meant to allow far more students to stay in school than in the previous two school years, even as the pandemic continues, and new concerns have emerged in New York in the forms of monkeypox and polio.
“Parents, it’s a very different year,” the governor said, at a briefing at her office in Midtown. “No more quarantining,” she said. “No more ‘test to stay.'”
Gov. Hochul made clear that, going forward, even if a child is exposed to someone with the virus, they won’t have to remain at home, as long as they don’t have symptoms.
“The days of sending an entire classroom home because one person was symptomatic, or tests positive — those days are over,” she said.
Also, she added, random sample testing for COVID is over, and each student will be sent a take home COVID test. If a child tests positive, they’ll be required to be out of school for five days. Otherwise, they can be at school.
Leon Burgess III, the parent of a pre-K daughter, said that the less restrictive rules could promote viral spread, but that overall, his skepticism is very slight.
“Most of the time, people tend to their kids,” he told PIX11 News. “I’m kinda excited, to tell you the truth.”
His approval of the new rules was echoed by another parent who, like Burgess, lives in Harlem.
“It was like so many days being missed,” said Nura Wright, referring to her first-grader daughter’s previous school year. “So this would be way better.”
The general approval from parents came in spite of the fact that New York schools now have to deal with another potential health concern: monkeypox.
New York State’s Department of Health recently recorded its first case of the illness in a juvenile. That single case is outside of New York City, which now has the highest number of cases of monkeypox of any American city.
Still, because vaccine supplies remain tight, New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett announced, at the same briefing as the governor, that starting next Monday, the state will direct health care providers to administer monkeypox shots that are one-fifth the size of usual vaccine doses.
The smaller doses will be administered just below the skin, rather than into fatty tissue, like most vaccinations. The newly administered doses are called intradermal vaccinations.
Dr. Bassett said that it’s the most effective inoculation, considering the supply of the vaccine. However, she added, “It’s not as pleasant to get intradermal.”
She said that the procedure can cause scarring, and, she added, “it is more painful.”
Dr. Bassett also pointed out that polio has been detected in wastewater samples in Rockland and Orange Counties, as well as in New York City.
One case of polio has been diagnosed in an adult in Rockland County. The illness left him paralyzed, just as most polio cases do in patients, Dr. Bassett said.
As for children returning to school, Bassett and Hochul said that the risk is low, but parents need to keep in mind that the devastating illness is out there, in and around the city. She strongly recommended that parents ensure that their children are vaccinated against polio.