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Not enough tests for ‘Test to Stay’ to start in North Country

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:14 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:45 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Monday was the first day back to school for students across our region, and in New York, it marked the start of a Test to Stay program.

But there was a snag in the program for North Country schools. Many schools say the state hasn’t given them enough tests.

“We’ve had 5.2 million test kits delivered to schools already,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-New York.

That’s just as of Monday.

Hochul says 37 million tests have been ordered. Now, they’re just waiting for them to arrive.

The governor says the idea behind Test to Stay is simple.

“If someone tests positive in a classroom and they’ve been exposed to them, they go home. They test negative the next day and they can come back. They test again later in the week,” Hochul said.

But in the North Country, tests are hard to come by. Some 22,000 kits were delivered to North Country schools already, 3,000 for Clinton County schools and more on the way.

“The question is how do parents get these very rare tests kits? You always see the lines for, we are going to put them in your hands, we are going to put them in the kids backpacks,” Hochul said.

The Clinton County Health Department said in a statement that the program requires all schools in the county to start testing at the same time and “kits will need to be secured regularly from the state and all schools will need to have systems in place to operate testing within schools.”

But there is no testing now in the North Country because there are not enough tests.

“We saw the storm brewing, we ordered a lot of test kits but they come in doses of three million or so at a time, so our highest priority with those tests kits is school districts,” Hochul said.

Plattsburgh Central School District Superintendent Jay Lebrun wasn’t available for an interview but did say he supports the idea of a test to stay program.

He says vaccination rates among high schoolers are higher, so the need to quarantine is lower. But for younger students where vaccinations lag, there is a higher rate of quarantine.

“We are making them available with the whole thought that this will give parents and teachers the confidence to know that the children sitting there are not positive for COVID and let the learning continue,” Hochul said.

I reached out to other superintendents in Essex County where they are working with the health department on how and when to start this program. It says it’s looking at a start later in January.

Plattsburgh Central School District did hand at-home testing kits out Sunday, which they said was not part of test to stay. However, if you did not get a test for your student enrolled with the district, you can call to pick up a test on Wednesday.

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