New York City Is Closing Public Schools Again As COVID Cases Rise

by Valerie Williams
Xinhua/Wang Ying/Getty

New York City is once again shutting down public schools as COVID cases begin to rise

According to The New York Times, New York City’s entire public school system will close as of tomorrow, chancellor Richard A. Carranza wrote in an email to district principals. The district has only been open for in-person instruction for about eight weeks.

“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,” Carranza wrote today. Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “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.”

In the spring, NYC was the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic but over time, the curve flattened and 7-day rolling positivity rates declined. Now, as de Blasio notes, the city has reached the 3% positivity rate that prompted the decision to close public schools once again. The recent increase in cases, however, is not being attributed to schools being open and actually, COVID case rates in NYC schools have been remarkably low.

As of mid-October, officials reported that out of 16,348 staff members and students tested randomly by the school system in the first week of its testing regimen, there were only 28 positives: 20 staff members and eight students.

Mayor de Blasio set the 3 percent threshold over the summer when the positivity rate in the city was around 1 percent or below. According to The Times, city parents are frustrated that schools are shutting down even though they’re not thought to be a source of COVID case rise while restaurants and gyms remain open. Families will face childcare challenges as parents who need to work will now have to grapple with kids transitioning to remote learning. Only Governor Andrew Cuomo can make the decision to close down businesses

de Blasio says the district will not automatically reopen as soon as the 7-day positivity rate goes back below 3 percent, noting that would be too disruptive to students and teachers. He’s suggested he would instead wait until community spread was more stable at a lower positivity rate.

The Times reports that Los Angeles and Chicago districts haven’t reopened for in-person instruction at all, but Chicago is planning to bring back younger children starting in January.