At least 65,000 city public school employees have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Mayor Bill de Blasio says that should give parents more confidence about sending their children back into classrooms.
“When you get adults vaccinated on this high level, it fundamentally changes the reality. On top of that, we already had persistently low levels of COVID in our schools now for months. So this is a real good sign,” the mayor said during his weekly appearance on WNYC Radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Sshow.”
About 46,000 of those vaccinated are teachers, principals, assistant principals, social workers and guidance counselors. That’s about half of the 94,000 pedagogical employees in the system.
The vaccination rate falls to about 35 percent for other employees like paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, administrative workers and school aides.
But the mayor says the actual percentages may be higher because some staffers who got shots have not been counted, including staff vaccinated or living outside of the city.
“65,000 confirmed vaccinations. But we do believe there's a substantial number beyond that, so that's a really, really good sign,” he said.
The tallies were announced as many public school parents are still weighing whether to switch their children from remote learning to in-classroom instruction. The window for that decision closes on Wednesday.
Parents are also digesting new information about the virus, including a finding by the Centers for Disease Control that grade school students can stay safe sitting just three feet apart if masked, and a study published by City Hall health adviser Dr. Jay Varma that found 80 percent of infections in city schools originated with adults.
“This is just an additional very, very positive factor. When you get this higher percentage of the adults in the buildings vaccinated, that is a game changer,” de Blasio said.
The new numbers also come as the mayor is considering whether to end the city's rule to close schools that have two unrelated COVID-19 infections at the same time. It has led to hundreds of shutdowns, but some health experts say it is unnecessary.
“Next week, we'll have an update on the two-case rule. We're doing a little more work with our health team on the right way to approach things, but we will have an update on that next week,” de Blasio said.
The mayor first promised to reevaluate the rule in February.