New York City’s public school system, the largest in the nation with 1.1 million students, will shut down Monday to stop to spread of the coronavirus. It follows Los Angeles, home to 700,000 students, which said Friday it’s also closing.
“I’m very, very concerned that we see a rapid spread of this disease, and it’s time to take more dramatic measures,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Sunday afternoon. “This is a decision I have taken with no joy and a lot of pain.”
As of Sunday, New York state had 729 confirmed cases. Five people have died in New York City, which has the highest concentration of infections with 329 tested positive.
“The facts have given us no other choice,” the mayor said. He faced increasing pressure – including from the governor, who asked Sunday in an op-ed in the New York Times for the federal government to mobilize the Army Corps. of Engineers to help in the fight.
On Thursday, the mayor declared a state of emergency in New York City and Governor Cuomo announced restrictions on public gatherings of more than 500 people. Things are moving quickly as New York City Council asked the Mayor to close bars and restaurants and other non-essential services in moves that would resemble what’s happened in Italy and Europe.
Public schools in Long Island and Westchester County will also close, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Some campuses will reopen on March 23 as “enrichment centers” to provide instruction and services for vulnerable children including many of homeless students and students with special needs. The city is also working on emergency child care for essential city workers whose children attend public schools.
The mayor said the goal is to reopen schools April 20 but warned they may not reopen for the rest of the school year. State officials said separately Sunday that the New York primary may be rescheduled from April 28 to June 23.
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