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Local schools report zero COVID cases

Students in grades 7 through 12 arrive at Saranac Lake High School for the first day of classes Sept. 8. (Enterprise photo — Amy Scattergood)

All public and private school districts and colleges in the Tri-Lakes region are reporting zero cases of COVID-19, according to a COVID-19 Report Card dashboard unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo early this month.

Cuomo encouraged parents to view the dashboard at schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov during a press conference in New York City on Thursday.

“To be anxious about your kid going back to school is not an unintelligent response,” he said. “Anxiety can be rational. I think it’s rational to be concerned.”

Public school students returned to school in the Tri-Lakes region on Sept. 8. Private schools each had different approaches to welcoming students back on various days: Northwood School’s classes in Lake Placid began on Sept. 3, North Country School in Lake Placid began Sept. 16, classes started at St. Agnes in Lake Placid on Sept. 3 and at St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake on Sept. 8. College students returned to the public North Country Community College for mostly remote classes on Aug. 31, and the first day of classes at the private Paul Smith’s College was Aug. 18.

The new COVID-19 Report Card dashboard shows COVID-19 data specific to public and private schools, including state and private universities and colleges. The data shows each school’s total enrollment, total number of staff and total number of reported cases. In some cases, the dashboard also shows the number of tests conducted on campus and various other statistics.

Chart showing U.S. cases, deaths and recoveries.

The data is collected from surveys that every school is required to send to the state Department of Health every day, according to state Department of Financial Services Deputy Superintendent Gareth Rhodes. Data for the dashboard is also collected from labs.

The Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake central school districts have been checking students’ temperature upon arrival at school and have encouraged parents to conduct health checks at home each morning. Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake schools are fully remote on Wednesdays, when schools are deep-cleaned, and grades 7 to 12 only have in-person classes two days a week. AuSable Valley Central School District is fully remote until Oct. 5, when school administrators hope to bring students back at least two days per week in-person.

The dashboard shows that as of Wednesday, the Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Keene, Long Lake and AuSable Valley central school districts all reported zero cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. Northwood School and North Country School in Lake Placid, Adirondack Christian School in Wilmington, St. Bernard’s School in Saranac Lake, St. Agnes School in Lake Placid and Northern Lights School in Saranac Lake also reported zero cases, as did Paul Smith’s College and North Country Community College, according to the dashboard. The dashboard indicates that zero tests from NCCC students and staff have been processed.

School officials have expressed doubts that this dashboard is sustainable.

“Right now, it’s manageable because there aren’t that many cases,” Bob Lowry, deputy director for the state Council of School Superintendents, told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown. “But as the fall progresses and turns into winter we could have more cases, and it could become more difficult.”

Daily confirmed cases globally

A USA TODAY network review of the COVID-19 Report Card dashboard on Monday revealed that despite some districts issuing public statements about having positive cases of COVID-19, the dashboard indicated those districts had zero cases, calling into question the accuracy of the data.

Franklin County Public Health reported three active cases of COVID-19 countywide on Thursday. A total of 61 people in 43 locations countywide are either in isolation or quarantine, according to Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane. People with confirmed cases of COVID-19 enter isolation; people with suspected cases and people who have come in contact with a positive case are ordered to quarantine.

The Essex County Health Department reported five active cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Of those, three are in the town of North Elba — the Health Department recently reported four cases among hospitality workers in the village of Lake Placid — and Willsboro and Moriah each have one case. Three people remain hospitalized.

Despite the low number of COVID-19 cases locally, public health officials continue to stress the importance of washing your hands, social distancing and wearing a mask in situations where social distancing isn’t possible.

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