In-Person Classes Dismissed as Virus Positivity Hits 3% Threshold in NYC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces Wednesday, Nov. 18, that in-person classes are dismissed for the foreseeable future because of a spike in Covid-19 positivity. (Image via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York City students will stop in-person classes starting Thursday as a surge of coronavirus has ushered in the region’s dreaded second wave.

“New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity seven-day average threshold,” Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. “Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out an abundance of caution. We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.” 

For over a week, the mayor kept parents and school faculty waiting day-to-day for an announcement on a possible shutdown as the seven-day test positivity percentage of new Covid-19 cases in the onetime epicenter of the virus floated close to the 3% weekly average threshold that would trigger school closures.

Confirming the closures at a delayed daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon, the Democrat told reporters and parents to expect that schools will remain closed “certainly through Thanksgiving.” 

“We’re going to fight this back. This is a setback but it’s a setback we will overcome,” de Blasio said.

Reopening standards will be announced later this week, de Blasio said Wednesday, anticipating that there be a “heavy emphasis on testing” and making sure students have consent forms on file and can be testing whenever schools need to. 

Without addressing when schools would reopen, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza emphasized in an email to staffers Wednesday afternoon only that the closure would be “temporary.”

“School is still in session, we are pivoting to remote learning,” Carranza reiterated at the press conference, reminding parents that schools will still offer free meals for all students and supply LTE wifi-enabled iPads to students who need devices for remote learning.  

New York City Schools Richard Chancellor Carranza speaks to the public Wednesday. (Image via Courthouse News)

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the temporary closure of schools in Brooklyn and Queens zip codes — several in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities — that were reporting surging rates of Covid-19 positivity. 

Addressing the statewide surge last week, Cuomo announced new Covid-19 restrictions requiring bars, restaurants, and gyms or fitness centers to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.  Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers union, appeared Wednesday in the city’s press conference. “Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can re-open for in-person instruction,” he said.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the announcement of the closures “a devastating moment for New York City,” saying it is incumbent on de Blasio to present the public with a reopening plan.

“Through the council’s oversight, we know that remote learning is failing many of our most vulnerable students, including special education students, those who live in homeless shelters, and those from low-income neighborhoods,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “This was unacceptable in the hybrid learning model and catastrophic now that we are going fully remote. The city needs a detailed plan to keep all students’ learning on track.”

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