New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said the city’s coronavirus positivity rate of 2.77% would keep city schools open until at least Tuesday, but reiterated schools would be shuttered if virus cases met the city-set threshold of 3% for a shutdown.
"Today New York City schools are open; tomorrow they will be open as well," de Blasio said Monday during his daily news briefing. "We’ve got a fight ahead to keep them open, but I’m not giving up and you shouldn’t give up either."
The mayor last week had warned of an imminent shutdown of the nation's largest school system as early as Monday as the seven-day average positivity rate inched close to the shutdown level set earlier this year as part of an agreement with the teacher’s union. The positivity rate reported Friday was 2.83% when 75,000 city residents were tested, had fallen to 2.47% Saturday, but was back up to 2.57% Sunday, according to city statistics. Over the weekend, the mayor said, nearly 300,000 New Yorkers were tested.
On Monday, de Blasio said while schools would still close if the 3% threshold is met as to not break his word to teachers, staff and parents, he was open to a suggestion made by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to ramp up testing in schools. Widespread school testing could determine whether an individual school is the cause of an increase in the virus in a particular community — and allow schools with low positivity rates to quickly reopen, officials said.
The mayor has said schools have not been the culprit for any increases in positive cases where the city in the past has labeled parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island "hot spots" or "red zones," but rather those rises have been attributed largely to social gatherings like birthday parties.
"If we reach this 3% level, God forbid, but if we reach it, we’re going to have to do some type of reset," de Blasio said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show before his news briefing. "It’s not a matter of saying ‘Oh, just let’s forget we had that.’ No, that was a rule we made to keep faith with people and show our commitment to safety. We’re gonna live by that rule. But the question is, how do we come back as quickly as possible?"
The mayor said he had "some really good conversations" with the governor about such a testing system. It’s unclear if the city has begun working on a plan to institute widespread coronavirus testing in the schools.
"I agree with the governor, a different approach to testing could be a crucial part of a comeback," de Blasio said.
Cuomo, in an earlier interview Monday on the same program, stressed his preference for intensive testing in schools in order to avoid school shutdowns. Cuomo said he’s in favor of looking at a "second calculus" to make school shutdown decisions.
"If the school is below a certain threshold, let that school reopen," Cuomo said. "But the parents and the teachers have to agree. There is no fiat here."
The mayor again on Monday called for New Yorkers to refrain from traveling for Thanksgiving and spending time with people other than those you live with. And, the mayor said, New Yorkers should wear their face masks even while inside if gathering with others.
"If people keep doing what they’re doing, coming out for the testing, wearing those face coverings, there’s a real chance here we can fight back this second wave," de Blasio said.