BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is scheduled to roll out the county’s test-to-stay policy to superintendents and principals on Wednesday during a virtual meeting. Burstein said Tuesday the health department finalized their policy on Monday and was preparing to share it with school officials.

Two days before Christmas, the New York State Department of Health authorized local health officials to draft test-to-stay practices. The protocol is set up to allow unvaccinated and asymptomatic PreK-12 students stay in the classroom if they were exposed to COVID-19 in school, so long as they continue to test negative.

“(Districts and schools) have to put together a plan,” Burstein said. “As soon as they have a plan in place, they can let us know, they can collect the tests, and they can start testing. They can start the program.”

Earlier in the school year, the Erie County Department of Health piloted a test-to-stay program in the Grand Island Central School District.

Michael Cornell, the Superintendent in the Hamburg Central School District and President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association, said he and his colleagues are ready to move forward with the program.

“After months of subjecting healthy children to unnecessary quarantine according to State and County requirements, school leaders in Erie County are ready to implement this critically important program in our schools,” Cornell said in an email.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said districts will be able to use kits they received from New York State to conduct the testing.

“The tests are the tests that were distributed by New York State,” Poloncarz said. “Most of the school districts should have these tests. There are other tests if they need back-up that they’ll be receiving from New York State.”

An Erie County Department of Health spokesperson said they have also ordered a supply of COVID-19 antigen tests for their test-to-stay program.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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