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Local school official thinks vaccine mandate an 'inevitability'

WBEN Radio Buffalo logo WBEN Radio Buffalo 10/18/2021 Brendan Keany
Vaccine © Provided by WBEN Radio Buffalo Vaccine

BUFFALO (WBEN) - As development continues with the COVID-19 vaccine, Niagara Falls Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie believes a mandate for students is an inevitability.

"It's all leaning that way...I think that's the way everything is pointing," said Laurrie. "Whether that's a good thing or not, I'm not so sure...I think it's going to pose another difficulty, and I think you're going to need to have a lot of very clear directives on exceptions."

Hamburg Schools Superintendent Michael Cornell said he doesn't feel qualified to offer a perspective on what a COVID vaccine requirement for students would mean from a public health perspective.

"I don't hear parents clamoring for more restrictions or requirements associated with attending school for their children," said Cornell. "I think most parents move between tolerating masks, quarantines, and other COVID-related restrictions and being tired of them."

In fact, Cornell listed several items he believes should be considered priorities ahead of any potential vaccine mandate in schools.

"We've been advocating for some type of a test and stay program rather than requiring close contacts to stay home and quarantine," said Cornell. "I collected data from about 30 school districts in Erie and Niagara Counties last week, and across those school districts, they've been required to quarantine more than 2,000 students since the beginning of the school year, and less than 2% of those students tested positive during the quarantine period.

"The other thing that is an issue for school superintendents is the requirements in New York State that a student or staff member that gets sent home because they're symptomatic get a PCR test in order to get back," he continued. "That presents a real access issue; not all families, particularly low income families, don't have access to get a quick PCR test, and they end up staying home for three, four, five days, when a rapid test, where you can get the result in 15 minutes, would do the trick and allow you to get back to school."

Another concern raised by both Cornell and Laurrie is the idea of an off-ramp for these COVID protocols in schools.

"When do we stop identifying close contacts? When do we stop wearing masks?" asked Cornell. "We've asked for some data-based off-ramp from the state so we understand what are the data points that trigger either the onset of requirements or the off-ramp from these requirements."

"We absolutely need to start weening off these restrictions," Laurrie added. "It's getting harder and harder to get testing done. We're able to manage what's occurring right now, but we need more flexibility in the quarantining procedures; we need more local control, and we need a jumping off point."

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