County governments are urging the state for help in tackling clusters of coronavirus cases that have popped up in parts of the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, and in New York City.
State and local officials are focusing on colored-coded areas that have seen increases in COVID-19 positive cases in recent weeks in order to avoid a more general statewide rise in cases amid concerns of a second wave this fall.
The New York State Association of County Health Officials and the New York State Association of Counties in a joint statement on Wednesday pointed to the state providing 400,000 testing kits as a "welcome step" to testing in schools. But, more details are needed to move forward with a cluster-busting plan.
"The biggest unresolved question is: Who will provide the staff and resources necessary to administer the tests? Many county health departments have dozens and even hundreds of schools within their jurisdictions, but not nearly enough trained and licensed staff to administer the large volume of tests. Test kits are just one part of a much larger array of essential resources that must be deployed to make this work," said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario and Sarah Ravenhall, the county health officials group's executive director.
And there are "significant concerns" about the ability of municipal-level governments to implement the plan, they said.
"Local health departments have been working in concert with community-based organizations since the pandemic began, and many of these organizations are at, or even beyond, full capacity," the groups said. "We cannot rely on local partnerships alone to meet our needs. Any plan to implement robust testing in our schools must include adequate state resources and withholding funds from localities will only make this monumental task even more difficult.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has sought to spur local governments to take a firmer hand in enforcing social distancing, capacity limits and other measures meant to blunt the spread of the virus.
Cuomo on Wednesday threatened to withhold funding from schools that open in red zone areas, as well as from local governments with COVID clusters that are not aggressively enforcing the measures.