Requirements for school-based diagnostic testing programs emphasize safety and quality control

ERIE COUNTY, NY — The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) will provide use of its Division of Emergency Medical Services new Limited Service Lab (LSL) license to schools within New York State-designated microcluster zones. This announcement follows extensive internal discussions about how to best support schools in providing safe testing for students and staff. 

“The requirement for schools to have access to the Erie County’s LSL in order to perform diagnostic COVID antigen tests raised serious concerns,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “ECDOH is responsible for all diagnostic tests performed under our license. We were hesitant to take any action that could put that license in jeopardy, especially since we use that license for a majority of our diagnostic COVID tests.”

“From a practical perspective, we were concerned how schools, which do not typically provide medical services, could carry out these programs safely and with quality results,” said Dr. Burstein.

“Our emergency preparedness team has used this time to obtain a new LSL and develop a plan that addresses our concerns and meets the needs of schools that choose to provide diagnostic COVID-19 tests to continue or resume in-person learning,” Dr. Burstein explained.

ECDOH will allow schools within microcluster zones to use its LSL to conduct school-based testing programs, once the schools confirm they can meet and maintain certain operational and safety requirements. Those requirements relate to identifying an ordering physician to supervise the testing program, developing an operational plan to safely test student and staff, obtaining consent for testing and providing confidential results, collecting and reporting testing data to New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and ensuring that medical records are preserved and kept confidential.

Schools will order Binax NOW COVID test kits directly from NYSDOH. These COVID-19 rapid antigen tests provide results in 15 minutes. Schools will provide those results to students and school staff tested at their sites, and will transmit records of all lab tests to NYSDOH.

ECDOH has sent information on how to access its LSL to school district superintendents and school leaders in Erie County. School leaders with questions can call the main Health Department phone number at (716) 858-7690.