NEW YORK CITY — New York City schools will temporarily close for in-person learning after the city's percent of positive coronavirus test results exceeded Mayor Bill de Blasio's threshold Wednesday, he announced.
De Blasio said the city's seven-day positivity rate had grown Wednesday, prompting the switch to all-remote learning.
"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," de Blasio tweeted. "We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19."
Remote learning will start Thursday. The earliest students will return to classrooms is after Thanksgiving.
“No one is happy about this decision,” de Blasio said. “But we set a very clear standard, and we need to stick to that standard.”
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent an email with the news to principals.
"This action, along with other city-wide measures, is a key component to address the concerning rise in COVID-19 transmission rates," he wrote. "This closure of buildings is temporary; we will work diligently alongside other City agencies and every New Yorker to bring this transmission rate back down and get back to in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible."
The mayor announced the school closure news Wednesday afternoon, more than four hours after he was meant to address the latest coronavirus news at a press conference. The delay was because city officials were confirming the latest coronavirus data was accurate. They also conferred with state officials to get everyone on the same page.
There was only a .19 positivity rate in schools, Carranza said. De Blasio had previously set a school-shutdown threshold of a 3% positivity rate over a seven-day period. The city's seven-day positivity rate Tuesday was 2.74% and before that 2.77% on Monday. It was exactly 3 percent on Wednesday, per city data, which is different from state data.
"We have to do more to fight back this second wave," de Blasio said.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the union representing teachers, broke down what needed to happen for schools to open again.
"Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can re-open for in-person instruction," he said.
De Blasio said there would be a bigger emphasis on testing once schools open again. All students will need to hand in consent forms to allow for testing.
Free meals will still be available for students, officials said. Teachers and principals will work to designate times to pick up supplies from the school building
Carranza emphasized that the closure was temporary.
"Together, we'll get through this and we'll all get back to in-person learning as quickly as possible," he said.
But New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said Wednesday working parents deserve better.
"You should not be telling parents the day before that they have to fund childcare. Every day, parents and students have to wake up wondering if their school is going to be open," he said. "This is the worst dysfunction that the leadership of this mayor has provided."
Gyms, bars, and restaurants are staying open at reduced capacity, for now — another point of confusion for some New Yorkers.
Williams and Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the education committee, support an alternative to a complete shutdown: increasing the number of facilities that currently care for the children of first responders and other essential workers, and making them available to everyone.
"There are many, many children who absolutely need in-person services," Treyger said. "There are families, working families, who live check to check; some folks who lost their jobs, struggling to pay rent or put food on the table. They don't have the means, like some families in wealthier zip codes, who are spending money for five days a week in-person services and private learning pods — they have a child care crisis.