At his daily briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be watching the positivity rate for COVID-19 in NYC to determine if schools can reopen and stay open for the 2020-2021 school year.
"We will not reopen our schools unless the city's infection rate is below 3%," the mayor announced. The city's infection rate has remained steady at 1% for several weeks.
"The essence of this plan is safety for everyone," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We are going to have an extremely rigorous plan for opening schools and if necessary closing schools."
On Thursday, test and trace protocols were announced for NYC public schools for the upcoming school year.
The announcement was made by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
"We are doing everything in our power to keep kids healthy while ensuring they are getting the education they deserve," Mayor de Blasio said. "These rigorous test and trace protocols will keep our students and staff safe as we start off this new school year."
The plan was developed in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Health + Hospitals and the NYC Test + Trace Corps in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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In preparation for the start of the school year, the Department of Education is purchasing large orders of hygiene supplies on behalf of the schools.
These supplies include facials coverings for students, teachers and staff; disinfectant, hand sanitizer and electrostatic sprayers.
School leadership and facilities staff in every school are reviewing school space and making necessary repairs and adjustments to ensure safe conditions for in-person student learning this fall.
"New Yorkers did the incredibly difficult work reducing the risk posed by COVID-19, and as a result we're in a better position than any other city in the country to safely resume in-person education under the current conditions and with clear, consistent health protocols," Carranza said.
All staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days before the first day of school, and then at least once a month during the school year.
School staff will have priority access for testing at 34 city-run testing locations, with tests provided free of charge and with expedited results. This testing is also available for families citywide.
"The city will prioritize free testing for school-based staff with 24-hour turn around time results at any of the 34 city-run testing locations," Chancellor Carranza said. "School-based staff members are also encouraged to opt into monthly COVID-19 testing which is critically important."
When school buildings reopen, all schools will be required take several precautions in order to prevent, identify, and address the spread of COVID-19.
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This will include, an isolation room for students with symptoms, physical distancing and facial coverings, cleaning throughout the day and night and clear communication with families and school community.
If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested.
If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their parents.
In addition, if there is a confirmed case in a classroom, the classroom will close and remote learning will be implemented.
If two COVID-19 cases are linked together in the school, but are from different classrooms, the school building will close and students will transition to remote learning.
In both scenarios, that plan will last for 14 days. If COVID-19 cases are detected but the link is undetermined, the school building will close and may remain closed for 14 days.
"If we believe there is transmission or risk of transmission in the school between those more than one cases, then the school has already been closed for at least 24 hours during the investigation, the school will remain closed," said Dr. Ted Long, NYC Health + Hospitals.
Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building.
Teachers unions still questioning the reopening plan, saying there is still not a nurse in every school.
The mayor was asked about the possibility of moving school back towards normal operation once the cases were lower or there was a vaccine. The mayor said he certainly hoped that would be possible.
"Nothing would be as clean and as clear as a vaccine,"Mayor de Blasio said. Once there is a vaccine, he said, "We need people to get it so that we can once and for all turn a page in our schools and in our city."
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