The Riverhead school district is working with Suffolk County to begin a voluntary, in-school COVID-19 testing program to test approximately 20% of the school population — staff, students, and faculty — over a two-week period.

The district plans to start testing on Friday, Interim Superintendent Christine Tona said in a letter to the school community posted on the district’s website this evening.

The COVID-19 tests — rapid tests — are being provided at no cost to the district by the county and will be administered by clinically trained individuals associated with the county health department, Tona said. Testing will take place over a two-week period.

“While we have not been designated as a micro-cluster, COVID-19 positivity rates over the last week in Riverhead have the attention of county health officials,” Tona wrote.

“If our community was to experience more days with a test positivity rate like we have seen, we could be at risk of being designated as a micro-cluster,” Tona wrote.

Earlier today, when Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar issued a press release warning that Riverhead Town was “approaching micro-cluster status,”

Neither the state nor county health departments provide positivity rates for towns. They also do not provide data on the number of COVID-19 tests reported on a town-by-town basis.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Riverhead Town has increased from 888 on Oct. 31 to 1034 on Nov. 17, a 17% increase.

Suffolk County’s positivity rate reached 3.8% yesterday, according to data releases by the county.

The schools have not been the source of virus spread, Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said in a Nov. 10 letter to school superintendents announcing changes to protocols for determining “close contacts” of infected individuals.

Tonight, Tona provided specifics backing Pigott’s statements as they apply to Riverhead.

“Since September’s school opening, the Riverhead Central School District has had 34 reports of positive COVID cases between staff and students, with two additional cases reported today,” Tona wrote. “As of this afternoon, only one of these cases may have been the result of school spread.” Despite that, the district has been forced to close school buildings over the past month due to quarantine requirements.

Tona said the district is working with the county to establish a community testing site for people who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. More information will be shared about this site as soon as it is available, she said.

The interim superintendent said she is hosting two Zoom webinars about the testing initiative tomorrow, one at 12 noon (presented in English and Spanish) and one at 4 p.m. (English only).

The sessions will be recorded for people who are unable to attend.

To attend the 12 noon webinar click here.

The attend the 4 p.m. webinar click here.

Registration is not required.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.