Oct. 13, 2020: Message from the superintendent about COVID-19 positive case reporting

Dear BKW Community,

The Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District is committed to as much transparency and information sharing as possible with regard to COVID-19 in our school community. We are in regular contact with the Albany County Department of Health and, in the event of a positive case, will work closely with them to provide all necessary information to aid in contact tracing efforts.

We all know that throughout the school year people will get sick, both students and staff. We also know that some COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, muscle/body aches, sore throat, headaches, etc. mimic the symptoms of flu and even common colds. We ask that all remain calm and avoid spreading misinformation. If there is a positive COVID-19 case connected to our school community, the district will confirm with the county health department before issuing any notifications.

Notifying our school community of positive cases
In the event of a positive case, confirmed by the department of health, involving a person connected to the school district, we will issue an email notification to staff and a mass notification via Blackboard Connect to BKW families. We will also post information on our website.

Please note that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy laws restrict the district from disclosing or confirming any personally identifiable information, and we cannot identify anyone who has tested positive.

The department of health will reach out to contacts of the individual confirmed to have COVID-19 and  will advise on the need to quarantine and test.

COVID-19 Report Card
All schools in New York state, including BKW, are required to submit a daily report to the state of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to a school. The COVID-19 Report Card is available to the public on the New York State Department of Health website and also via a link on this webpage, and it includes daily case statistics from schools throughout the state.

The district is required to report not only confirmed positive COVID cases connected to the school, but working with the county department of health, report instances where a person connected to the school district has shown symptoms of the coronavirus for at least 48 hours, but has not been tested or has not received a conclusive alternative diagnosis within that time. The department of health will determine the need to notify, quarantine and contact trace.

In addition, the state dashboard includes a number that is an estimate of “Lab Reported Positives based on Residential Address” as part of its school COVID Report Card. This estimate may differ from the number of cases that are directly related to the school district, and may include students who reside within the district, but do not attend BKW schools. Individual school data on the dashboard is listed separately below this estimated number.

On Sept. 30, 2020, the New York State Department of Health released a Pre-K to Gr 12 COVID-19 Toolkit (note: link updated 2/2021) containing updated guidance related to student and staff attendance for those who are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19. Under the revised guidance, the time frame for exposure to the virus, or exhibiting symptoms of the virus, has been decreased from 14 days to 10 days. “Close contact” has been defined to mean only those who have been designated as contacts by the local health department.

Regarding diagnosis, a note from a health care provider indicating a negative test result may be accepted in lieu of a copy of the test itself. However, a note from a health care provider that does not indicate a clear, confirmed alternative diagnosis for symptoms is not acceptable for return to school.

Health & safety precautions
We continue to encourage all members of our BKW school community to follow precautions so that we can work to promote health and safety in our community as a whole. This includes:
– Staying home when not feeling well
– Practicing safe social distancing at all times
– Wearing a mask in public, especially when social distancing is not possible 

Finally, we wanted to clarify what needs to happen before students and staff can return to school after falling ill or showing COVID-19 symptoms. Also, see the Albany County Department of Health flowchart.

If a student or employee has shown symptoms of the coronavirus, one of the following must take place before that person can return to school: 
– The person’s health care provider provides a conclusive diagnosis of something other than COVID-19; 
– The person tests negative for COVID-19; or 
– The person is released from isolation by the Department of Health.

Students and employees will be asked to provide documentation from a health care provider of an alternative diagnosis, or a negative COVID test result. Anyone who is symptomatic for 48 hours and does not receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID test result will be isolated by the department of health.

While these protocols may present challenges for some families, please be aware that they are not simply school or district policy: Only the department of health has the power to release individuals from isolation, which would then allow them to return to the school.  

Thank you for your understanding and ongoing support of our students, our school and our district. “They are because we are!”

Dr. Timothy Mundell
Superintendent of Schools