Coronavirus: NYC shutting down schools amid COVID-19 outbreak, mayor says

NEW YORK — The mayor of New York City announced Wednesday that the nation’s largest public school system will move to remote learning immediately after the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate hit an average of 3%.

“We will have an update in the next couple of days on the plan to bring back the schools, what additional standards will be needed,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference shortly after announcing the closures via Twitter on Wednesday. “We warned parents days ago that this moment might come, but we had to be 100% sure we were accurate this morning, and we had to have that conversation with the state.”

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According to The New York Times, the school system that serves 1.1 million students across 1,800 schools has only been reopened for in-person instruction for about eight weeks. The fall return to classrooms was twice delayed “after union leaders objected to the lack of health measures to protect teachers, students and staff from the coronavirus.”

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and a coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, told CNBC when de Blasio first instructed parents last week to prepare for the resumption of online learning that she was concerned the city is “prioritizing the wrong things.”

“We know that the biggest spreaders of the infection are indoor dining, bars, indoor gyms and indoor social gatherings, which may be private gatherings. It’s not schools. Now, it’s not to say that there is no transmission in schools, but they are far less important in terms of community transmission than are some of these other settings,” she told the network.

Gounder’s sentiment is shared by New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who tweeted the following shortly after de Blasio’s Wednesday announcement:

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