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The following message was emailed to all district staff and Columbia/Goff parents on Monday, March 28.

As you know, the NYS Department of Health shared updated COVID guidance with school districts earlier this month. As part of that guidance, school districts are still required to conduct contact tracing for positive cases of COVID-19. However, districts are permitted to implement either individual contact tracing or group contact tracing.

  • Group Contact Tracing – Individuals are identified as being exposed because they were in the same room of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period (e.g., class in the same room, lunch in the cafeteria, physical education class in the gym).
  • Individual Contact Tracing – Individuals are identified as being exposed because they were within 6 feet of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.

Due to the switching of classes and mixing of cohorts at the secondary level, and the fact that contacts are no longer required to quarantine, Columbia High School and Howard L. Goff Middle School are now implementing group contact tracing. Using individual contact tracing for a single case at the secondary level can take hours and it pulls multiple staff members for the investigation of class lists, seating charts, surveillance video and interviews. Staff members are needed for other responsibilities including supervision of students and to support academic programs and services.

As a result of group contact tracing, Columbia and Goff will have much higher numbers of contacts related to COVID cases. This should not be alarming as the number of COVID cases remains extremely low. In the month of March, our school district has reported a total of 28 positive cases. For comparison, February had 64 cases and January had 659 cases.

Parents who have students identified as contacts through group contact tracing will receive a letter of notification via email, regardless of vaccination status. The letter includes recommendations including mask wearing and testing. As long as contacts remain asymptomatic, they can continue to attend school.

The elementary schools will continue with individual contact tracing because students do not switch classes throughout the day.

The school district will continue to report positive cases through the NYS COVID-19 Report Card and post the number of any new cases on the COVID-19 Updates webpage. However, the district will no longer report the number of contacts related to each case since quarantine is no longer required.