NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools could close as early as Monday should the city's positivity rate inch up further this weekend.

What You Need To Know

  • The city's public schools will close when the 7-day average positive rate for coronavirus tests is 3%

  • That average was 2.83% on Friday, and the city could cross the tipping point this weekend

  • If it does, schools will shift to all-remote instruction

The seven-day rolling average for positive COVID-19 cases in the city was 2.8% on Friday, the mayor said on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, just below the city's 3% threshold for shutting down schools.

"That is a high number. That is a number that has gone up since yesterday," de Blasio said. On Thursday, that figure was 2.6%.

The mayor said parents should begin preparing for their children to be fully remote but emphasized this could be temporary. If students return to remote learning, the mayor hopes to bring students back to the classroom as soon as possible.

"Parents should have a plan for the rest of the month of November," he said.

De Blasio said he will provide an update on indicators on Saturday and Sunday morning. If the seven-day rolling average reaches 3%, the announcement will be made to shut schools immediately.

The daily positivity rate on Friday was 3.09%, according to the mayor. The daily number of hospital admissions was 121, with 28.8% testing positive.

If schools close when hitting the 3% mark, that would result in them closing before restaurant dining rooms and gyms. But the mayor is pushing back against critics who say the 3% threshold is arbitrary and unnecessarily low.

"This is a standard we set of when we thought we would know the difference between, we could keep things as safe as we wanted to, versus when things we were getting more challenges,” he said.

There's been little indication that in-school instruction has spread of the virus. Just 0.18% of tests done in schools have been positive.

But one epidemiologist defends the 3% benchmark, saying the city needs to consider the broader picture when deciding what to do about schools.

“We don’t have proof with a capital P that at 3% that’s when everything falls apart. I think certainly 3% is three time higher than the 1% that we fortunately were at for a long time, and a tripling of that kind of thing is to me a very important increase,” said Dr. Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. “I think these alert systems that we didn’t have back in March and April puts us at a real advantage right now because it means there’s a transparency in how the decisions are made, they’re not arbitrary.”

The mayor said his health experts set the 3% standard to keep schools safe. He adds that it is important to stick to it.

"We set a standard and asked everyone to trust in it,” he said, “and part of keeping trust is staying consistent.”

But for many of the 280,000 students who have attended schools in person, a new shutdown would be a blow.

"As soon as the kids get accustomed to one thing, they've got to go back and do something else again,” one parent said Friday. “It's hard for the kids and hard for the parents, especially if you got to work.”


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