North Shore districts scramble to staff schools while COVID-19 cases climb

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North Shore districts scramble to staff schools while COVID-19 cases climb
A pair of school districts throughout the North Shore have reverted back to online remote learning due to the coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of Metro Connection)

Public school districts across the North Shore are scrambling to remain open, with two already temporarily reverting to remote learning due to an increased number of coronavirus cases over the past two weeks.

New Hyde Park Memorial High School and Sewanhaka High School were in remote learning from Monday to Wednesday, the district said. The district has not said when in-person learning would resume. 

In a statement to the community, the district said, “Due to significant staff shortages resulting from positive cases of Covid-19 and quarantining protocols, New Hyde Park Memorial High School and Sewanhaka High School will continue remote learning for Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Elmont Memorial High School, Floral Park Memorial High School, and H. Frank Carey High School are all open as normal.”

Due to faculty and staff members who were quarantined at the time, Floral Park Memorial High School and H. Frank Carey High School held classes via Google Classroom on Dec. 21 and 22 leading up to the holiday break, which ended Monday. 

According to New York’s COVID-19 report card for schools, New Hyde Park Memorial had 77 students test positive from Dec. 22 to Tuesday. In the same  period, no teachers were reported to have gotten COVID-19. 

For Sewanhaka High School, the state reported 47 new cases among students in the same time period, with no teachers reporting cases. 

According to the data, the percentage of individuals at New Hyde Park Memorial and Sewanhaka who have tested positive for COVID-19 was 3.37 and 2.42 percent respectively as of Monday. 

According to figures from the state’s Department of Health, in the Port Washington school district 304 students, 48 teachers and 46 staff members had contracted COVID-19 since Dec. 22, a total of 398 individuals. 

Figures showed that in the Mineola school district 225 students, 41 teachers and 19 staff members had contracted COVID-19 since Dec. 22, a total of 285 individuals. 

In the North Shore Central School District 184 students, 52 teachers and 25 staff members had contracted COVID-19 since Dec. 22, a total of 265 individuals, statistics showed. 

North Shore interim Superintendent Thomas Dolan released a statement to the district about at-home testing kits.

“We received our kits from BOCES yesterday afternoon,” he said.  “We were required to pick them up and we safely stored them. There is one box (containing two kits) available for each of our students. We would like to make these kits available for pick up by parents and propose to start that process on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. We will allow parents to pick up one kit per child from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. according to the following schedule:”

In the East Williston school district, a total of 128 students, 27 teachers and 25 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus since Dec. 22, according to the statistics.

In Great Neck, 112 students, 47 teachers and 15 staff members had contracted COVID-19 throughout the district since Dec. 22., a total of 174 individuals, according to the figures.

In the Floral Park-Bellerose school district, 77 students, 18 teachers and 16 staff members had contracted COVID-19 from Dec. 22 to Tuesday, a total of 111 individuals, according to the state’s Department of Health. 

According to the figures, in Herricks 95 students, six teachers and eight staff members had contracted COVID-19 throughout the district since Dec. 22, a total of 105 individuals.

In the Roslyn school district, 16 students, three teachers and two staff members had contracted COVID-19 since Dec. 22, a total of 21 individuals. 

Roslyn Superintendent Allison Brown released a statement Wednesday to the community, posted on the district’s website regarding new guidelines issued late Tuesday night. 

“Please be advised that my administration and I are reviewing the New York State Department of Health guidance that was issued late yesterday, which advised that additional guidance from CDC for schools is expected in the coming days. Once issued, the NYSDOH will review that guidance. For the time being, schools will follow the current NYS school guidance regarding school attendance that we have been following since September 2021. We are in the process of consulting with our medical director and the Nassau County Department of Health and will reach out shortly regarding updated COVID-19 quarantine and isolation protocols.”

In Manhasset, 48 students, three teachers and three staff members had contracted COVID-19 in the district since Dec. 22, a total of 54 individuals, according to statistics.

Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced a five-pronged plan to combat the winter surge of the coronavirus on New Year’s Eve, with the first point being keeping schools open. More than 5.5 million tests will be distributed to school districts throughout the week, with state officials anticipating nearly 6 million to 7 million more in the coming days. State officials said New York has secured 37 million tests to be distributed to school districts throughout the state.

If a student tests positive, officials said, classmates can have a test kit at their home and return to in-person instruction once they receive a negative test, rather than quarantining. Hochul again urged New Yorkers to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“We can get through this surge through targeted actions, partnerships with local leaders, and by taking common-sense steps to keep us all safe: get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask indoors,” Hochul said.

“We have every tool to keep our families and communities safe,” acting state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said. “We must ensure we use them all. Governor Hochul’s targeted plan to expand vaccination and booster access, mask and test, and increase measures to protect our health care workers is the comprehensive strategy needed to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant.”

Dr. David Hirschwerk, the executive vice chair of North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Departments of Medicine, said people who are fully vaccinated have about a 40 percent protection rate against the omicron variant.

Those with a booster shot have roughly a 70 percent protection rate against the variant and about a 90 percent protection rate against developing severe illness.

“We can only say that those receiving boosters are much less likely to become infected compared to those receiving one or two shots,” Hirschwerk said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “And with that, they are less likely to become transmitters of the virus.  If they do become infected despite vaccination, they do remain contagious to others.”

Hirschwerk, who also serves as an associate professor of medicine at Hofstra/Northwell’s School of Medicine, said Pfizer and Moderna “have performed better with respect to reducing transmission” than the Janssen J&J vaccine.

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