Explaining color-coded zones for COVID-19 ‘microclusters’

Dear DCS Community: 

Schools in New York have received new guidance about how the state is tracking COVID-19 infection rates. The state has implemented a color-coding system as a means to identify “hotspot” areas. We want to share information about how this color-coding system may impact our schools. Please note that at this time, there are no cases of COVID-19 at DCS and we continue to operate as normal with our schools open. We are also not currently in a designated color-coded zone. We are sharing this information to keep you informed.

Color-coded Zone System

New York State is using a color-coded system to track COVID-19 infection rates by region. The system identifies regions that exhibit certain metrics related to COVID-19. The color coding includes yellow, orange and red. Yellow and orange indicate “warning zones,” and red signifies a “hot spot” or “micro-cluster.” 

The state’s metrics used to place an area in a Red Zone include daily hospital admissions for COVID-19, positivity rate of testing, and other factors. In order to prevent these micro-clusters from getting bigger, warning zones around them are also identified. The rings around the Red Zones are labeled Orange Zones, and the rings around the Orange Zones are labeled Yellow Zones. 

It’s important to note that the color-coded system applies to entire communities, not just schools. Even if a school district does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, it may be included in a color-coded zone based on the region’s metrics.

Yellow Precautionary Zone

If our region has been designated a Yellow Zone, our goal is to keep our schools open. We believe there is no substitute for academic, social and emotional benefits of in-person instruction. The safety protocols we use in our school buildings and vehicles are effective. 

There are, however, certain precautionary measures that will be instituted if our region is identified as a Yellow Zone. According to the current state guidelines:

  • School nurses will test 20% of all in-person staff and students over a two-week period following an announcement that we are in a Yellow Zone. Tests will be non-invasive, rapid screening tools and all test takers (or parents, in the case of students) will be asked to complete a consent form prior to testing. There will be no cost for these tests. 

Orange and Red Zones

As of this letter, if our area is designated an Orange or Red Zone, Duanesburg Central Schools will transition to Remote Instruction for all students. Though there are protocols for schools located in these zones to operate, we believe that doing so would not be feasible. Because, as we have all learned, responding to a pandemic requires great flexibility, guidance about this issue may change.

Stay Vigilant

We will continue to communicate with you about anything that changes our COVID-19 Reopening Plan. As always, I remind you that washing your hands, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a mask are still the best tools we have to protect against COVID-19. Thank you for doing your part to keep our school community safe.

Thank you for your continued support, 

Dr. James Niedermeier