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NYC teachers won't show up unless every student and staff member gets a COVID-19 test, union threatens

That's a lot of tests

Holly DeMitry-Dolan, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124, moves desks and chairs in her classroom to socially distance desks for the 2020-21 school year in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

A New York teachers union announced that New York City teachers may not show up for school if every student and staff member is not tested for COVID-19 before entry for in-person classes, according to the New York Post.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the extreme amount of testing is the only way to ensure safety and prevent a coronavirus disaster upon reopening.

"Every single person — both adult and child — that is to enter an NYC school must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus," Mulgrew said during a news conference. "New York City must have a rigorous and intensive testing system in place. What happened in March cannot happen again."

Mulgrew is proposing three things that he says Mayor Bill de Blasio must make happen for teachers to agree to come back to school:

  • Full stock of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and proper ventilation
  • COVID-19 response team at each school and a clear plan of action
  • Every single person screened and able to prove they don't have COVID-19 before entering a school building
"We are not going back to hell because of short-sighted political agendas," Mulgrew said.
The union's plan would require anyone without a positive antibody result within 10 days of reopening to get a COVID-19 test and produce a negative result before entry into a school building.

While it would certainly be nice if everyone could be tested as a precaution, the sheer number of New York City students who attend public schools may make that impossible.

According to the Post, more than 1 million students attend New York City schools. That doesn't include faculty and staff. On a daily basis, the entire state of New York conducts between 50,000 and 80,000 tests.

The delay in testing results due to high volumes would also be an obstacle to this plan. In some cases, people are having to wait 10-14 days before getting their results, which in many cases could render it useless. Someone can have COVID-19 and then have totally recovered from the virus within 2 weeks.

New York City schools are scheduled to start Sept. 10 with a combination of online and in-person learning.

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