New York City public schools are closing to in-person learning for 300,000 students starting tomorrow as the COVID-19 infection rate in NYC approaches 3%, a shutdown threshold previously agreed upon by the city, teachers and parents.
The chancellor of the nation’s largest school district, which has been open in person for two months, broke the news in an email to principals Wednesday.
“As of this morning, November 18, the City has now reached this threshold of test positivity citywide and, as a result, the DOE will temporarily close down all public school buildings for in-person learning, Thursday, November 19,” he wrote. De Blasio confirmed the news in a tweet.
It’s a major setback for the city, although not unexpected. De Blasio had signaled late last week that schools could be shut down imminently. NYC was once the center of the pandemic but has driven the infection rate down. The city and state still have one of the lowest number of COVID cases in the nation — fourth after Maine, Hawaii and Vermont.
NYC parents and students have protested the 3% bar, noting the rate of infection in schools specifically is very much lower than that and asking why school have to close when bars and restaurants are open.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in press briefings last week tended to agree, suggesting the city rework the figure based on in-school not citywide infection rates. Closed schools are a huge for working parents and many kids depend on school meals. But at a very testy briefing Wednesday, he blasted reporters who questioned the city’s move, which he apparently hadn’t been briefed on ahead of time. The state has authority over schools, he repeated, but he’d agreed to let each district set its own parameters within limits.
Cuomo last week issued a set of new statewide restrictions including ordering restaurants and bars to close at 10 pm and limiting social gatherings to ten people (a move the NYC Sheriff’s department said it will not enforce — another contentious issue at the conference).
New York’s tightening is line with crackdowns and closures by cities and states across the nation as the COVID-19 second wave takes it course with record new daily infection rates.
New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold. 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.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 18, 2020