NEW YORK STATE ---- Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Health sent out warning letters to districts across the state. The letter that were signed by NYSDOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, calls out districts they said have not posted any data to the State's COVID-Report Card Database.
The database allows the public to see up to date numbers relating to COVID-19 in schools online. The state requires districts to post stats such as the number of people learning in school and at home, the number of staff and students, and the number of positive cases.
Locally, schools such as Edmeston Central Schools as well as Rome City Schools received the letter. However, both of those districts have reported numbers.
Edmeston Superintendent Gary Furman said he was shocked and upset after receiving the letter. The district which Furman said has been consistently reporting data, said the letter was uncalled for.
"It just seems like this was one more thing added to our plate that was not necessary. It should have been done in I think a more productive way, in a more collaborative way, and a way that we could reach a solution with the department of health," said Furman.
Rome Superintendent Peter Blake said after speaking to other districts that received the letter, he heard the letter may have been sent to some schools by mistake.
We asked the State Health Department if this was the case, they did not directly answer our question but responded with...
“The Department recognizes the unprecedented challenges school districts are facing in response to this pandemic, but also how important this information is for families and for public health officials who use it to identify trends to plan a response. We are committed to working with our partners at all levels of education to ensure accurate and timely data input, and most of all to continue to ensure the health and well-being for students, faculty, staff, their families and communities.” -Gary Holmes, DOH Spokesperson.
The letter states if these districts do not report data within 48 hours, districts could receive the following penalties;
-Ending in-person learning and moving to fully remote learning.
-Staff responsible for posting to the report card could be removed from office.
-The district could lose their professional licenses and certifications.
Below is the full text of the letter sent by NYSDOH:
As you know, on September 9, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.61 as part of the COVID-19 response. This Executive Order directed that “[e]very school and school district shall report to the Department of Health, on a daily basis, … all COVID-19 testing and diagnoses among students, teaching staff, and any other employees or volunteers.” The State established a data reporting system, available here, to facilitate mandatory reporting pursuant to Executive Order 202.61.
To date, your school/ school district has failed to comply with this mandatory reporting requirement. This failure to provide critical COVID-19 testing and diagnosis data seriously impedes the ability of the New York State Department of Health and your local health department to conduct rapid contact tracing and to determine whether an outbreak exists that warrants swift action. As the number of reported COVID-19 outbreaks in schools increases nationwide, your school/school district’s lack of transparency also undermines public trust in the education system as a whole, at a time when public trust is critical to the State’s pandemic response activities.
Continued non-compliance with the mandatory reporting requirements in Executive Order 202.61 is not acceptable and constitutes a violation of a lawful Governor’s directive issued pursuant to section 29-a of the Executive Law. Your school/school district must immediately take all necessary steps to begin reporting within 48 hours of receipt of this letter. Failure to do so constitutes a danger to the health of your students, staff, and the general public, and the Department of Health will take all necessary actions to address this threat. Such actions may include issuing an order pursuant to section 16 of the Public Health Law, and in accordance with Executive Order 202.60, requiring the cessation of all in-person school activities and mandating remote only learning, and the imposition of civil penalties pursuant to section 12 of the Public Health Law. The matter will also be referred to the New York State Education Department for additional action, which may include the loss of state aid pursuant to section 306(2) of the Education Law. School officials who are responsible for a school or school districts failure to comply with reporting requirements may also be removed from office pursuant to section 306(1) of the Education Law, and subject to professional discipline, up to and including the revocation of professional licensure or certification pursuant to Department of Education regulations at 8 NYCRR Part 83.
If you have questions about these reporting requirements, please contact NYSDOH immediately.