NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mandatory testing for staff and students at schools in New York City's yellow zones began on Friday.
The required weekly testing was ordered for the city's yellow "buffer" zones by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo said Thursday that the state is sent hundreds of thousands of rapid test kits to city schools to complete that testing.
The governor had previously criticized the lack of testing in schools, indicating that the tests act as an important early warning system for viral spread.
So far, 72,000 consent forms have been filled out from parents to allow their students to be tested in schools. That's just nearly 20% of students, city officials revealed Friday morning.
Chancellor Richard Carranza said there's another option for students who do not want to consent to testing.
"A student who does not have consent, or an adult that does not consent to testing, randomized testing ... there's an option for these students, and that's fully remote learning," Carranza said.
Dr. Jay Varma, a senior health advisor to the mayor, responded that, "Testing is not even the first, second or third line of defense to protecting our children, or students or staff from COVID-19, testing alone will not save you."
"The yellow zones I know were drawn by the governor, not the mayor, I get that. There is a lot of tension and anxiety in the yellow zones. I appreciate you are sharing some testing data. We don't even know the number in the yellow zones and we do need to know how many consent forms, because it absolutely gives us a sense of we are at. Here I am telling you there is confusion on the ground," said Council member Mark Treyger, Education Committee Chair.
In the past three days, the city tested 7,257 people for COVID-19,15 were positive, for a 0.2% positivity rate.
In the yellow zone schools, out of 3,100 tests, four were positive.
Meantime, there were also some troubling new numbers regarding remote learning. Data discovered through a subpoena issued by the New York City Council revealed that schools where at least half the students were Black and Hispanic were nearly eight times more likely to report poor attendance.
"These are the neighborhoods where kids have fallen further behind, where the city which tried to champion this mantra of excellence, shortchanged them," Treyger said. "We're talking the likelihood of thousands of kids who have never logged onto anything since March ... that's devastating, and that's time they'll never get back."
It was one of many topics the chancellor was grilled on as his patience wore out.
"And I spent four and a half hours, with all respect answering questions here to the best of our ability...I have a school system to keep open," Carranza said.
Rules in the red area:
-Houses of worship - 25% capacity, 10 people maximum
-Mass gatherings prohibited
-Nonessential businesses closed
-Takeout dining only
Rules in the orange area:
-Houses of worship - 33% capacity, 25 people maximum
-Mass gatherings - 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
-Businesses - Closing high risk nonessential business such as gyms and personal care
-Outdoor dining only with 4 person max per table
- Schools: remote learning only
Rules in the yellow area
-Houses of worship -50% capacity
-Mass gatherings - 25 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
-Indoor and outdoor dining
-Schools - Mandatory weekly testing of students/teachers/staff for in-person classes. Testing will start next week.
Click here find out if you are in a COVID hot spot and what new restrictions apply.
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