Cluster Action Initiative (Orange Zone)


     Orange Zone Designation Lifted


    In October, Gov. Cuomo announced a new statewide program called the Cluster Action Initiative, which is intended to target smaller areas where there is increased prevalence of COVID-19 transmission. More information on this program can be found below.

    On Monday, Nov. 9, Gov. Cuomo announced that much of Erie County, including Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda, has been designated as a Yellow Zone. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gov. Cuomo announced that these areas have been downgraded to an Orange Zone. These dsignations have a significant impact on in-person activities, including schools. On Tuesday, December 8, the Ken-Ton School District announced its plan to return students to school and move forward with COVID-19 testing.

    On Jan. 27, Gov. Cuomo announced that the Orange Zone would be lifted effective immediately and all related restrictions are no longer in effect.

    Ken-Ton UFSD Cluster Action Initiative Communications:

    About the Cluster Action Initiative:

    The Cluster Action Initiative was enacted by Gov. Cuomo under Executive Order 202.68. The state has set specific criteria to determine whether an area will be identified. Based on a variety of factors such as the positivity rate and hospitalizations, areas may be identified as Red, Orange, or Yellow zones, with varying degrees of restrictions on in-person activity, including schools (red zones with the greatest restrictions, yellow zones with the least restrictions).

    Click here for more information on the Cluster Action Initiative from New York State:

    Click here for additional information from New York State including the details and metrics for Yellow, Orange, and Red Zone designations:

    Cluster Action Initiative Chart

    Yellow Zone Information

    While schools can remain open for in-person instruction in an area designated as a Yellow Zone, there is a mandatory testing requirement to keep schools open. The current guidance requires schools to conduct random testing of 20% of the in-person population (students and staff). If the schools do not conduct this testing, they need to transition to remote instruction.

    Initially, it was announced that the testing must be conducted weekly for the entire duration of the Yellow Zone designation. On November 16, the New York State Department of Health released new guidance that stated that "schools in yellow zones must test 20% of in-person students, faculty and staff over the two-week period immediately following the announcement of a yellow zone designation. If the results of the testing reveal that the positivity rate among the 20% of those tested is lower than the yellow zone’s current seven-day positivity rate, testing at that school will no longer be required to continue. A positivity rate in a school that is lower than in the yellow zone is a sufficient demonstration that in-person instruction is not a significant driver of local viral spread. The current positivity rate for zones can be found at:

    "However, if the results of the testing over the first two weeks reveal that the positivity rate among in-person student, staff and faculty is higher than the Yellow Zone’s current 7-day positivity rate, the school will be required to continue to test 20% of the in-person population on a bi-weekly basis. population on a bi-weekly basis."

    You can read the interim guidance document here:

    NYSDOH November 16, 2020 Interim Guidance Addendum

    Orange & Red Zone Information

    Initially, Gov. Cuomo announced that schools cannot operate in-person instruction in an Orange or Red Zone. On November 3, the NYS Department of Health released interim guidance for schools to reopen for in-person instruction in Red and Orange Zones:

    • Schools must close for a minimum of four calendar days after the area is designated as a Red or Orange zone.
    • Schools may reopen as early as the fifth calendar day. This is the earliest schools can reopen. In order to reopen, schools must have a negative COVID-19 test for 100% of students and staff who would be in attendance, and be able to test 25% of students/staff weekly (more information below).
    • No students or staff may return to school without confirmation of a negative COVID test. These tests must be administered after the closure of the school following the Orange or Red Zone designation.
    • Each week beginning seven days following the reopening of the school, the school will be required to ensure that 25% of students and teachers are tested weekly. Each week, a different 25% of students must be tested. This testing would continue until 100% of students and staff are tested the fourth week. The fifth week, testing would begin again with the original group tested, thus testing all students/staff once every four weeks.
    • If this weekly testing yields nine or more positive results, or if a sample size of more than 300 weekly tests yields a positivity rate of 3% or greater, the school will be required to close again.

    On December 4, the NYS Department of Health released revised interim guidance for resuming in-person instruction in an Orange or Red Zone. Under the new requirements, school will not need to close and can continue in-person instruction by testing 20% of students/staff per month. You can read it here:

    NYSDOH December 4, 2020 Updated Interim Guidance