COVID Letter to BOCES Staff and Parents
November 12, 2020
Dear Orleans/Niagara BOCES Staff and Families:
The rate of COVID-19 infections is increasing in Western New York, and the rate in Niagara County was 4.7% on November 10. Governor Cuomo has instituted a new strategy of monitoring and responding to outbreaks of new cases within a limited and definable geographic area, which are called micro-clusters. Our students, faculty and staff have diligently followed our health and safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the rising community spread of the virus could impact our regular program instructional model.
The Governor’s micro-cluster strategy uses multiple data points (positivity rate, hospitalizations, population density, contact tracing, etc.) to identify a geographic area by region, county, zip code, or a more granular location. Once an area has been identified, the local Department of Health engages in calibrated and focused containment efforts. The containment efforts include designating the micro-cluster zone with a color to indicate the severity of the outbreak. The possible color-coded micro-cluster zones are as follows:
- "Yellow Zone": Seven day rolling positive test rate average above 3% and 12 or more new cases per 100,000 residents for ten consecutive days.
- "Orange Zone": Seven day rolling positive test rate average above 4% and 12 or more new cases per 100,000 residents for ten consecutive days.
- "Red Zone": Seven day rolling positive test rate average above 5% and 12 or more new cases per 100,000 residents for ten consecutive days.
The zones can include specific streets and addresses or could include buildings within the identified zip code. It is possible for a school in one zip code to be designated in a micro-cluster, while a school in a different zip code would not be.
If a school building is designated to be in a yellow zone micro-cluster, the school can potentially remain open to in-person instruction, however, it would need to randomly identify and test 20% of its students and staff each week until the data points drop below the yellow zone levels. If the school cannot meet these testing parameters, it must transition to fully remote instruction. At the present time, the County Departments of Health are unable to assist school districts with the random testing requirements.
Should one of our sites be placed within an identified orange or red zone, the school will be required to transition temporarily to fully remote instruction for at least two weeks. Before reopening for in-person instruction, all students, faculty, and staff must have a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to in-person schooling. The school must also be able to test 20% of students and staff each week.
The Governor’s office identified some micro-clusters within Western New York this week. Orleans/Niagara BOCES families need to be prepared to transition temporarily to remote instruction, and create plans for child care, if one or more of our schools is identified as being within a micro-cluster.
Please know it is our goal to maintain in-person instruction as long as cases remain low in our Counties. We will continue to work closely with the local County Departments of Health, and make decisions based on local, regional and state data.
As always, we will keep you informed as circumstances change.
Dr. Clark Godshall