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De Blasio welcomes back some students to in-person learning

From left, New York City Mayor Bill de

From left, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Board of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza welcome children back to school at PS 5 in the Bronx on Monday morning following the recent school closing due to the pandemic. Credit: John Roca

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday welcomed back to school thousands of students after an almost a three-week break when in-person learning was shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor and New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza greeted students at PS 5 in the Bronx, where the children were given temperature checks before rubbing elbows with de Blasio and the top schools boss.

"It is a good day when kids are going back to school. It is a good day when you see those smiles and that joy … you could see the smiles even with the masks on," de Blasio said during his daily coronavirus update.

"I talked to a fourth-grader named Martha, and I said ‘are you happy to be back at school?’ And she said ‘yeah,’ " de Blasio added.

When the mayor pressed the student as to why she was happy to return to school, Martha replied, "I learn more. I learn more when I am back in school."

"Our kids need to be back in the classroom," de Blasio said.

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During the briefing, the mayor said that the city's daily new virus hospitalizations rose to 144 — still under the bench mark of 200 — but that the rate per 100,000 residents was 2.8, which was above the goal of 2.0. The positivity level for new cases was 4.98%, barely below the bench mark of 5%, the mayor said.

In response to a question about whether new restrictions might be coming, de Blasio said the new indicators were "troubling" and warned that "all options have to be on the table" in terms of further restrictions and business closings if things don’t move in the right direction.

"I think it's as simple as this: If these numbers don’t level off soon, then all options have to be on the table. That is a decision the state will ultimately make," he said.

De Blasio didn’t make mention of any restrictions that might be considered, but apparently he was referring to possible closures of nonessential businesses and indoor dining. The mayor acknowledged that he has talked recently about the subject with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo but didn’t provide any details.

The mayor's remarks about troublesome indicators came as he generally lauded the return to school of children in grades K-5 after the hiatus because of concern about rising COVID-19 infections.

He said students with special needs in all grades can go back to in-person learning on Thursday. Middle and high schools students will continue on all-remote learning until after the holiday break.

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