NEW YORK — COVID-19 cases — and resulting classroom closures and quarantines — have spiked in public schools, as cases are on the rise throughout the city.
What You Need To Know
- As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, 877 classrooms around the city were closed due to positive COVID-19 cases
- That’s more than quadruple the 189 classrooms that were closed on Nov. 15
- Teachers like Jo Macellaro are worried about the increasing number of cases and a lag in notifications about them
The city on Wednesday reported 546 positive cases among students and staff — up nearly 150% from the daily number reported a month prior, which was 220.
And as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, 877 classrooms around the city were closed due to positive cases — more than quadruple the 189 classrooms that were closed on Nov. 15.
Mayor Bill de Blasio insists schools are safer than most other environments in the city, and says the city will ramp up Situation Room resources if needed.
"We have about 1,600 schools; only one is closed right now. And we do have classroom closures, but they constitute 1.4% of our classrooms," de Blasio said. "So there is more activity. But I think the Situation Room has handled it very, very well."
Jo Macellaro is a teacher and the union chapter leader at P.S. 186 in the Bronx, a District 75 school serving children with disabilities. Macellaro received 11 emails about potential and confirmed cases on Wednesday alone.
“Imagine being at work, trying to do your job responsibilities, and every few minutes you're getting an email saying, another positive case, another positive case, another positive case,” Macellaro said.
The increase comes as the city braces for the impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus — and despite mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for school staff and vaccine availability for children ages 5 and up.
"All the staff are vaccinated. However, people who are vaccinated, people who have had COVID before, are getting COVID again," Macellaro said. "In some cases, it's very mild, and in some cases, it's not."
The spike in cases, combined with an email earlier this week urging schools to prepare remote learning plans, fueled rumors the city was planning to pivot public schools back to remote learning. In an email, the city Department of Education shot that down, writing: “There is no plan for a systemwide school closure and pivot to remote learning.”
That prior email about remote learning plans was in reference to individual classroom or school closures, the DOE said, which are determined by the city’s Situation Room on a case-by-case basis.
But Macellaro says the Situation Room seems to be overwhelmed.
“If you're a teacher and you have a student with a positive case in your classroom, you may not find out until several days or even a week later,” Macellaro said.
Schools will start winter break next Friday, Dec. 24. When students return, de Blasio will no longer be mayor.
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