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NYC launches COVID 'situation room' to monitor cases in schools

Bill de Blasio
Posted at 1:52 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 18:14:26-04

NEW YORK CITY — To provide a rapid response to COVID-19 cases in New York City schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza launched the opening of the Department of Education COVID Response Situation Room.

The program, which is in partnership between the DOE, the Department of Health and Mental Health and the Test and Trace Corps, provides a single point of contact between schools and agency partners ensuring appropriate actions are taken by school communities.

“The Situation Room is the precise system we need to identify, trace, and treat positive cases within our school communities,” said de Blasio.

“My pledge is simple: every case will be met with swift and decisive action to keep transmission low and our kids and teachers safe.”

Beginning Monday, school leaders can contact the Situation Room if they receive notice a staffer, student or family member has tested positive for COVID-19 or if they are sent home with symptoms and isolating.

DOHMH will then verify a possible case and trigger a Test and Trace investigation if needed.

Educators are advised to contact the Situation Room with any questions or concerns.

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators in New York City said in a statement that though it is vital to have the new "situation" room, it is a concern that it was not implemented until the week before schools reopening to students.

“Since March, CSA has aggressively advocated that principals need more and faster direction from DOE & DOH after someone in their community first reports a positive case of COVID-19. With the City’s plan to reopen school buildings one week from today, it is vital that the newly unveiled “situation room” triages cases and provides support to school leaders faster than has been done to this point. It is deeply concerning that this support was not already in place when thousands and thousands of educators reported to their buildings to start the school year.

When principals notified the DOE about self-reported cases last week, in many instances, the confirmation process took far too long, and principals were unable to notify their staff in a timely manner. Communication from the City must improve so there is more transparency before students return next week. Cultivated trust within a community is the most important credential school leaders possess. When a positive case is reported by a family or staff member, principals must be free to share that potential to maintain the vital trust necessary in this crisis.

Additionally, many staff members at schools with a positive case understandably had questions and concerns about the Test & Trace protocols and the need to quarantine. With the City’s plan to reopen buildings, DOE and DOH have no margin for error to ensure the safety of our school communities.”

The Situation Room will be open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.