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COVID-19 restrictions dropped in NYS as kids return to school

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The first days of school in the Central Square School District are looking a lot different from this time last year: no social distancing, masks are optional, and close contacts of people with COVID-19 do not have to be quarantined.

Superintendent Tom Colabufo said the changes are getting an overwhelmingly positive response from parents.

"It wasn't the same (last year),” said Colabufo. “It wasn't the same feel when you're starting the school year off, and you're excited for homecoming, and maybe you're in a sport, or you're in band, and winter guard, drum line, and everything was just about COVID."

It’s a similar situation in the East Syracuse Minoa School District. Superintendent Donna Desiato said while most COVID-19 precautions will not be required, the district and staff have learned some lessons from the pandemic.

"Protocols that have existed with regard to distancing and hand washing and those types of items, while they won't be required, they're mindful that some of those protocols are also very helpful,” said Desiato.

Despite the easing of restrictions in schools, the state reports the current positivity rate for COVID-19 is 8 percent for Onondaga County and 13.1 percent for Oswego County. The CDC has listed both counties at a medium risk level.

But Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said central New York is in a much better position at the start of this school year to handle potential cases.

"I think overall, the big difference is we are well equipped with therapeutics,” said McMahon. “That's where you want to be. People get sick with things every day. You take medicine and you get better."

McMahon points to the wide availability of vaccines for anyone ages six months and up and said people may also want to speak with their health care provider about whether the new Omicron specific boosters may provide additional protection for them or their children.

Plus, Superintendent Colabufo said having students in the classroom with their fellow students can have a tremendous benefit on their emotional health.

"I'm sure there's parents who are still going to be a little apprehensive, but when you weigh everything, we need students in school, and we need them to be able to see their teachers' faces," he said. "We need students to be able to see each other’s faces."

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.