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18 Nov, 2020 20:34

NYC schools to close ‘indefinitely’ as city’s weekly Covid-19 positive rate reaches 3%

NYC schools to close ‘indefinitely’ as city’s weekly Covid-19 positive rate reaches 3%

New York City’s public-school system is to close its doors “indefinitely,” officials announced, after the city’s seven-day coronavirus positive rate hit three percent. They won’t necessarily open their doors when it dips, either.

Schools will suspend all in-person instruction on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed via tweet on Wednesday. The mayor’s announcement came after schools chancellor Richard Carranza sent an email to principals warning them that New York had “reached [the three percent] threshold of test positivity citywide.

In-person classes are not expected to begin again anytime soon - de Blasio has said he doesn’t want to “disrupt” the lives of children, parents and teachers by switching back and forth between open and closed every few days as the seven-day positivity average fluctuates.

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After repeated delays, New York was the first big city to open for in-person classes. However, the three-percent cutoff has forced parents to check Covid-19 statistics on a daily basis, as citywide figures have crept toward that threshold, leaving families, teachers and administrators alike fraught with anxiety due to the uncertainty of the situation.

Several dozen parents staged a protest with their children on Saturday in downtown Manhattan demanding schools stay open even if the positivity rate hits three percent.

We know now that schools aren’t super spreaders,” one mother told the New York Times, begging de Blasio to “re-look at the data, and re-look at what contributes to the pandemic and prioritize accordingly.

Even de Blasio has acknowledged that public schools are not spreading the coronavirus. Last month, random in-school testing indicated an infinitesimal positive rate of just 0.17 percent among students and staff. However, he has championed the three-percent closure rate as a “symbolic” gesture intended to reassure parents - who don’t seem to agree.

The closure is all but guaranteed to be another point of contention between de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who set a nine-percent threshold for school closures - three times de Blasio’s figure.

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The problem is not coming from the schools,” the governor said during a recent press conference, urging de Blasio and his staff to devise a better metric for determining closures, as he ordered a 10pm curfew for bars and gyms and imposed a gathering limit of 10 people for private homes, just in time for Thanksgiving.

The state university system has already announced it will not resume in-person classes after the Thanksgiving break, even while warning students who fail to test negative for Covid-19 that they will not be allowed to leave campus to return to their families.

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