If there is a positive test in a classroom, unvaccinated students will not have to quarantine if they are masked and have maintained a three-foot distance.
This is in alignment with CDC guidance, the mayor said.
"We've been looking at these two issues over the last few weeks," he said. "We looked at it in light of the data from the first week of school. We decided to make both of these changes simultaneously, and they do complement each other."
The shift away from the biweekly policy established at the beginning of this school year comes after nearly two dozen cases of the virus forced nearly 250 students at PS 79 in East Harlem to return to all-remote learning this week.
"We're glad the city has agreed that weekly COVID testing for all schools is the best strategy, but we strongly disagree with the mayor's plan to limit the quarantine process only to some children rather than an entire classroom," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. "While the CDC guidelines allow an exception to quarantine for some students who have been exposed to the virus, the exception specifically applies to children who have maintained social distance and consistently worn well-fitting masks. Maybe in the mayor's universe, all children keep their distance, wear their masks correctly and leave them on all day, but in the real world of our schools, this just isn't so, particularly in the many schools that are overcrowded. Children, particularly the youngest who are most vulnerable to the Delta variant, need more protection than the mayor is offering with this recent, ill-considered decision."
The weekly COVID testing will begin Monday throughout the district.
The 19 cases at PS 79 have been linked to a staff orientation event that happened before the start of the school year, and students are not expected to return to classrooms for in-person learning until September 28.
Parents we spoke with agreed with increased testing.
"Knowledge is power," dad Martin Coceres said. "If more of our kids and staff are getting tested, then I have greater confidence that we are not spreading anything."
Others, though, called it the quarantine rules dangerous.
"I think if one kid had COVID, they should shut the class down and they should all quarantine," dad Darren Willis said. "I don't like it."
But the pushback may be a moot point after all, because the federal government could allow young kids to be vaccinated as early as next month.
On Monday, Pfizer reported results from its study of 2,200 kids, ages five to 11. They got just a third of the dose of an adult and generated the same immune response, with what Pfizer describes as minimal side effects, similar to adults and older kids.
Next, the study must be peer reviewed, and then Pfizer will apply for federal authorization, which Dr. Anthony Fauci says could come quickly.
"I think there's a really good chance it will be before Halloween," Fauci said.
The mayor also announced the reopening of all after school programs in the city, meaning 1,080 sites with extended hours are now open to serve 150,000 students across New York City.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
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