BATAVIA — Genesee County will have $1.4 million from the state Department of Health for COVID-19 school testing activities and to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for county schools if legislators formally accept the money.
The $1,415,984 is geared toward having the schools basically ready for potential COVID activities in the fall, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said.
“We don’t really know fully what that’s going to look like yet. We’re still waiting on the state to come out with their recommendations for the upcoming school year. This funding is essentially allowing us to prepare for that,” he said.
Pettit said the department is working with the schools on telehealth.
“We have a company out of Buffalo we’ve been talking with that provides telehealth services that could actually imbed some of that telemedicine in the schools that would allow these students and/or faculty and staff, potentially, to engage in a mobile, urgent care visit, so to speak, and potentially prevent them from having to go get that followup related to COVID, potentially come back to school ...” he said. “This funding will cover all that. We’ve already got it approved by the state. We’re just getting the money set up here and we’ll see what fall holds.”
Legislator Gary Maha asked whether the county would front the money and then receive reimbursement.
“I’m not sure the process on that. I would believe so. We’re going to be taking a very conservative approach to it,” Pettit said. “There’s a shelf expiration on a lot of this PPE and testing. We’re not going to go buy a lot of test kits and things. I’ve been talking to all the superintendents all along and there’s differences, school by school, on their approaches and what they want to see done in the schools.”
A lot will depend on what the state requires in the fall, he said.
“If they come out and say, ‘Look, there’s going to be some local mandatory testing and masking, those types of things, there’s probably going to be, probably, a rush on those supplies again to get ready,” Pettit said. “It’s (the award) population-based and it’s actually a lump sum for the county. We can work within the schools to divide it up. We’ve looked at, per population in each school, how much each would get, potentially, out of that. If there are schools that don’t really want to participate, we could shift that fund around a little bit.” Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein asked if this would include nursery schools or Universal-Pre-K programs run in school districts.
“UPK in schools will be fine,” he said. Pettit said it wouldn’t cover services outside of school.
“It’s really pre-k through 12, so as long as it’s in that setting,” he said. The funding can be used for non-public schools as well, he said, in response to a question by Stein.
Legislator John Deleo said when COVID first appeared, the elderly were more at risk then younger people. He asked if it was the same way now or if younger people are at risk as well.
“We’re still not seeing higher levels of severity, necessarily, in general, with the younger population, but they are good carriers and spreaders,” Petit said. “The biggest concern is that they get it and take it home to grandma and grandpa.”
Pettit said the funding goes through July 2022.
Stein asked, “If the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) comes out and says, ‘Every student 12 and up, must be vaccinated to attend school, will this also cover the cost of getting that (vaccine)?”
Pettit said this funding has nothing to do with vaccination efforts.
“From what we’re hearing, it doesn’t sound like that type of a mandate is expected anytime soon,” he said. “Obviously, that’s predicated upon full FDA approval of the vaccines, which we’re hearing is not going to be, at the earliest, until mid fall to late fall, now.”