NEW YORK CITY — New York City public schools could stay open even if there's a second coronavirus shutdown, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
There could be closure orders after Christmas because of the ongoing COVID-19 surge, but "schools are the safest places in New York City right now," de Blasio said.
"I want to keep them open," he said. "If we do have a PAUSE that will be a decision the State makes, as I said, that could be as soon as right after Christmas, but the schools with all the layer upon layer of health and safety measures with this gold standard of health protections that we've put in place, schools can effectively keep serving kids and kids need it."
Michael Mulgrew, president of the union representing teachers, decried de Blasio's thoughts on keeping classrooms open.
"If the coronavirus infection rate rises to the point that a citywide 'shelter in place' is necessary, keeping school buildings open would be irresponsible," the United Federation of Teachers president said.
Schools had closed down under the state's microcluster strategy, but data has shown that schools have not increased the rate of transmission, Health Advisor Dr. Jay Varma said.
"People's risk of getting infected, if you are a member of the school community, is either similar to, or in some situations, much less than it is for anybody else in the community," Varna said.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi also backed the idea of keeping schools open even if the rest of the city goes back under shutdown orders.
"Everything that happens in schools from, of course the learning and the education itself, to some of the services that are provided both for mental health, as well as social services, schools should be thought of as as instruments of promoting health in our communities," Chokshi said. "So that's why we have taken those painstaking steps to make them as safe as possible because they promote health."