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Onondaga County hopes to help schools with contact tracing

Shinichi Sugiyama

Onondaga County is making plans to come to the aid of school districts trying to keep track of COVID-19 cases in school buildings.

Calling families to notify them their child has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 has been a burden for some districts, as the omicron variant has swept through New York. That’s where Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says the county can help. During a briefing Tuesday, McMahon said the county is working out ways to get former contact tracers on the job in schools.

“We know there are county residents that did this,” McMahon said. “Maybe we try to bring them on as temporary workers to help relieve pressure in the schools, potentially. That would be our first phase. And we are logistically trying to make that a reality."

McMahon said they are still working on the program details because the state changed the contact tracing rules for schools late last week. But he said it can be done.

"It’s in a micro-setting. We know who is in the classroom, we know all this information,” he said. “It’s much different than looking at a broad-based community level. You’re talking about a couple of different phone calls compared to 20 or 30 per case. So it’s something we can continue to do.”

According to the latest guidance from New York State, schools aren’t required to perform contact tracing if a student or staffer tests positive for COVID-19. However, those guidelines also say schools should also have a way to notify parents and guardians if a student is exposed to the virus.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.