Horseheads Schools See ‘High’ COVID transmission rate; Superintendent Proposes Bringing Exposed Students to Class

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HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) – Horseheads Central Schools are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, forcing the district to identify its transmission rate as “high,” according to data from the superintendent Thomas Douglas.

According to Douglas, the majority of cases are coming from children at the elementary school. Three staff, however, have tested positive over the past week, though it’s unclear at which schools.

Roughly 40-percent of students and 85-percent of staff are vaccinated, according to the district.

“We are in a much different place than we were last year when we were short-staffed with a high case count,” Douglas said. “That’s even though the case count then was lower than it is now.”

Currently, students who are unvaccinated and exposed to anyone who is COVID positive must quarantine for 10 days. Douglas tells 18 News he’s trying to change that, though health experts are wary of his idea.

“[The district proposed] to the county and said ‘let us bring our direct contacts in the school and monitor them.’ As soon as they show any signs, they must get tested and they must stay home,” Douglas said.

Douglas argues that the majority of COVID-19 infections come from outside the classroom and that the virus is rarely being transmitted to students inside the school. Experts say that’s because exposed students are at home quarantining.

“Education needs to adjust just like our society needs to adjust to the changing parts of this pandemic where, in my words, it’s turning into an endemic [and] no different than the flu,” Douglas told 18 News. “We’re going to have to start making those shifts.”

Dr. Richard Terry, Dean of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with health organizations like the Center for Disease Control, emphasizes that students who are unvaccinated should quarantine if exposed to COVID-19. He says vaccinated students would not have to unless they show symptoms. Dr. Terry referred to schools a breeding ground for COVID-19 infections.

“Even if a fraction of the kids get [COVID-19], it still could be a large number that could overwhelm the hospitals,” Dr. Terry said. “Not to mention the potential long COVID syndrome that can sometimes occur.”

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