NEW YORK (WABC) -- When New York City schoolchildren are dismissed, they're never really sure whether they'll return the next day. Because all it takes to shut down a public school is two unrelated COVID-19 cases.
It's known as the "two case" rule. And on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio says that needs to change.
"I think what folks feel-and they're right-is that the two case rule had outlived its usefulness," de Blasio said. "So it will be gone. There will be a new rule in place soon."
But in the past several months, it's happened more than 2,000 times. A maddening measure of unpredictability in an uncertain time-for students and their parents. Barely 30% of the city's public school students have returned to the classrooms. That is to say some 70% are still learning remotely.
"We recognize that repeated closures, result in social, emotional, and educational harm to kids and families," said NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. "Our aim is to strike the right balance, while retaining our gold standard of stringent safety measures for schools."
The mayor once ordered schools closed if the citywide positivity rate rose to 3%. The rate today is more than double that. But the rate in the schools is extremely low and millions have been vaccinated, including 65,000 teachers. The president of the teachers union today sounded a note of caution, saying in a statement:
"Students now account for two-thirds of the new infections. Any change to the two-case rule has to take the safety of children and their families into account, not the Mayor's need for a Monday morning announcement."
The replacement for the two-case rule is not yet known. Still, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said the district will focus on handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing to stop COVID outbreaks, instead of sudden closures.
"The consistency will do wonders for instruction, without interruptions due to building closures teachers will be able to continue to connect more deeply with the students and better understand their academic needs," she said.
Meanwhile in New York State, the 11 p.m. curfew has ended for movie theaters, casinos, bowling alleys, billiard halls, and gyms.
The state will also open vaccinations to anyone over 16 years old on Tuesday.
However, the COVID pandemic curfew remains in place for restaurants. Capacity is still limited to 50% in the city.
That's because of concerns over a more contagious COVID variant.
However, the latest data shows cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all trending down in New York City.
Mayor de Blasio says the city is well on its way to a major milestone.
"I think, you know, we're, we're going to hit that goal of five million fully vaccinated, New Yorkers by June, by summer," he said. "I think it's going to be verifiable that this is a place you can come and do a lot of great activities, a lot of great outdoor, cultural activities, outdoor dining, and a lot of other things and be safe, and so I think it'll be a big part of our recovery."
The mayor said that in light of the good data, parents can continue to opt-in to in-person learning until Friday.
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