Reopen NYC: UFT pushes to delay reopening due to positive cases

COVID-19 News and Information
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- There's renewed concern from the United Federation of Teachers about the reopening of New York City schools.

The teachers' union once again is threatening to delay the start of the school year after more teachers tested positive for the virus.

With students in New York City due to head back to classrooms, positive COVID-19 test results among 22 teachers and school employees are sparking concerns.

Teachers returned to class Tuesday and were urged to get tested ahead of time, with the city's Test and Trace randomized testing set to begin on October 1.

Two positive cases were confirmed at P.S. 811X The Academy for Career and Living Skill on Longfellow Avenue in the Bronx. That school has been temporarily closed for at least 24 hours pursuant to established protocols of having two confirmed cases in seven days within a school but not limited to one classroom or group.

"We have 22 confirmed cases," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. "That is really a phenomenally low positivity rate, but we are still angry because of all of this crap happened during the week. We've always been there for our schools because we know it's our schools. It's not city hall's, it's not the mayor's schools, it's our schools. These are our schools, our children's schools, our parents' schools, and we have made a promise to them that we are going to keep their children and their families safe. We're going to keep ourselves safe as well."

This is the same protocol for closure that will be enforced once students return in-person.

"All individuals with a confirmed case are isolating, and the Department of Health, in partnership with the Test & Trace Corps, is conducting investigations into all confirmed cases to establish who are close contacts and asking them to quarantine," the Department of Education said in a statement.

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Another case was at M.S. 88 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the teacher who tested positive was in the classroom and did come into contact with other teachers.

The cases are stoking fears that schools and the DOE aren't ready for in-classroom learning.

Additionally, teachers say they haven't been contacted by the city or tracers to let them know if they came into contact with a positive case. Rather, they found out through their union.

"What happened to us is a dress rehearsal for disaster for our school communities," teachers from M.S. 88 wrote in an open letter to the DOE. "If there is one thing we've learned from seven months of COVID-19, it's that the people who have been developing school reopening policies are far removed from those who are actually implementing those policies."

The city released the following statement:

"The city is committed to continue working together with UFT and doing everything in our power to make our schools safe because our students and teachers deserve nothing less."
But as more teachers start getting tested, positive cases are likely to increase. And if there is more than one case in separate classrooms, the school could be shut down.

"As we get ready for in-person learning, we'll stop at nothing to ensure principals, teachers and school staff have the protections they need to stay safe and prepare for the school year," the DOE said in a statement. "While we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic, there will be positive cases-we are putting people's health above everything else by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases, which is a leading effort to prevent transmission."

If the infection rate reaches 3%, officials say that's when they will switch to all-remote instruction.

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