School districts to report data on teacher vaccinations to state; nursing home visitation to expand

School districts will be required to report the number of teachers who have been vaccinated as the state begins to collect data to assess what Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to as the biggest obstacle for schools to reopen to in-person learning.

Local governments and county health departments will be responsible for compiling that data and reporting back to the state, Mr. Cuomo said during a conference call Monday.

“We’re asking … how many teachers have you vaccinated, how many teachers are doing in-class teaching and what percent of the week is now in-class?” he said. “Teachers are very concerned that before they return to the classroom they are vaccinated.”

Teachers have been eligible to receive the vaccine under the Phase 1b guidelines. More than 2.2 million first doses have been administered among all the current eligible residents in New York, as of Monday’s reporting. About 1.2 million second doses have been administered.

Mr. Cuomo said the districts were to be notified Monday with a request to begin reporting the numbers Wednesday. The data on teacher vaccinations will be collected on a weekly basis going forward.

“I think we need clarity on that matter because opening schools is very important,” he said. “Opening schools is very important for children and it has economic consequences beyond that.”

Local districts have each come up with unique plans on whether to open full-time or mix remote learning. Many districts have operated under hybrid plans where some students are remote and others in the classroom to limit the population and allow proper social distancing. Data on positive cases among students and staff has been tracked by the state online since schools reopened.

The Greenport School District will change its hybrid model starting March 1 so students study remote only one day per week. In a letter to the community from Superintendent Marlon Small and high school principal Gary Kalish, the district said students will be grouped according to last name into five separate groups. So students with last names A-C would be remote on Monday. By Friday, students with last names S-Z would be remote.

“A vast majority of classes will be unaffected by the increase in student in-person attendance,” the letter said. “In those instances where social distancing will not be possible, we are planning to redesign room layouts, relocate rooms and/or install desk shields for one or two rows in those rooms.”

The Riverhead School District — the largest on the East End — started the year under a hybrid plan and elementary students have since returned to full-time instruction. The Shoreham-Wading River School District has had full in-person learning since the start of the year.

In other COVID-19 news, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced updated guidelines on indoor visitation in nursing homes that go into effect Friday.

He said positivity rate in a specific county determines how visitation will be handled in terms of testing.

In counties where the positivity rate is less than 5%, no testing is required for visitation. It is encouraged, he added. If the county has a positivity rate of 5-10%, then testing should be done within 72 hours. No visitation is allowed in a county with a positivity rate of greater than 10%. There’s an added caveat in the 5-10% category that a visitor who has received a second dose of the vaccine, there is no need for a test.

“I reiterate always the need to take all those public health precautions,” he said.

Suffolk County currently has a 4.1% positivity rate on a seven-day average.

Visitation at one time will also be capped as to not overwhelm facilities so they can handle the number of people in the building.

At Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead, window visits resumed earlier this month after all residents were determined to be clear of COVID-19. Residents were allowed to come out of their rooms and participate in small group activities, as well, the facility announced. At Greenport’s San Simeon by the Sound, an employee tested positive for COVID-19 during routine testing last Tuesday, so visitation is barred until at least Wednesday, the facilities’ administrator, Steve Smyth, announced last week. On Feb. 5, Mr. Smyth had announced window visits were permitted again.

Eleven residents had tested positive during a January outbreak at San Simeon just as the vaccination process was beginning. Four residents died.