New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday city schools could close temporarily for in-person classes as early as Monday as coronavirus infections rise.
“We should get ready,” de Blasio said in his weekly Friday appearance on The Brian Lehrer Show on New York public radio’s WNYC, saying parents should “have a plan for the rest of the month of November.”
“I think that’s the safe way to think about it. Have an alternative plan beginning as early as Monday for this month if school is not open,” he said. The mayor had raised the possibility of re-shuttering the nation’s largest school district earlier this week.
Cases in the city are approaching a seven-day rolling average of 3%, the level de Blasio had set for closing down public schools again. However, the infection rate in schools is less than 1% — well below the city average. Parents have protested that, given the low spread in schools, they should stay open and the city focus on areas where spread is known to be more problematic like bars, restaurants and social gatherings.
At a briefing Friday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked if he agreed and could or would override de Blasio. Cuomo said the state has the last word but had agreed with its 700 schools districts that they could set their own parameters as long as the percentages fell within a certain range. However, he urged the mayor, the teachers’ union and parents to consider the low spread in schools and perhaps establish a separate parameter just for schools, because “if schools were open I think it would be better.”
Cuomo earlier this week tightened restrictions on closing times for bars and restaurants. He said he had met with the governors of adjacent Connecticut and New Jersey today on aligning policies to avoid — say — bar hopping from state to state if locales are closed in one but open in another. He plans an “emergency summit” this weekend with a larger group of six New England states including governors and their staffs to discuss coordination and preparedness.
News Monday that a fast-tracked, highly effective vaccine was on the way from Pfizer spurred hopes of an end to this national and global nightmare. But as new U.S. COVID-19 infections hit a record of nearly 164,000 cases Thursday, Cuomo warned against complacency.
“There is a vaccine on the horizon but it is a further horizon than most people think. If it takes six months, nine months, to distribute a vaccine, I think we are talking about that range, you cannot sustain a rising COVID rate until you have a vaccine. If that is an operating assumption, that is wrong. To the extent that people are saying the vaccine is right around the corner, you cannot take this rate of increase and survive pending the arrival of a vaccine.”
In the most sweeping crackdown of the recent fall spike, Oregon Friday placed the state in partial lockdown for two weeks starting Wednesday including halting restaurant dining, shutting museums, entertainment venues and gyms and prohibiting gatherings of more that six people. California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint coronavirus travel advisory urging people arriving in states to quarantine for 14 days and asking residents to avoid all non-essential trips.