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NYC closes schools citing COVID-19, despite low positivity rate


Parents were notified Wednesday that all learning would be virtual starting Thursday

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Wednesday that public schools citywide would be closed and all learning would be conducted virtually starting Thursday, in a blow to parents.

A rise in coronavirus rates in the Big Apple was cited for the reasoning, despite officials admitting that cases in the nation's largest school system itself remain incredibly low.

What are the details?

"New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold," de Blasio tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out an abundance of caution. We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19."

Politico reported that in a letter to principals, "Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said schools have seen a Covid-19 positivity rate of only 0.19 percent out of more than 120,000 students and staff tested but that the city established a 3 percent threshold and was sticking to it."

According to the New York Times:

The mayor set the 3 percent threshold over the summer, when average positivity rates were hovering around 1 percent or below. He has been explicit that the number is less of a strictly scientific measure and more of a symbol intended to reassure parents, educators and the union.

While parents were given less than 24 hours' notice to find child care and make other arrangements after de Blasio's announcement, the mayor had warned them last week to "have a plan" in case such a spur-of-the-moment decision was made.

WNBC-TV reported that de Blasio "told parents Friday to have a plan in place as early as Monday in the event the citywide rolling positivity rate hits the school shutdown threshold (3 percent) over the weekend.

Anything else?

There appeared to be confusion earlier in the day Wednesday between New York City and the state over school closings, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to provide clear answers during a press conference on whether New York City schools would go virtual on Thursday.

Cuomo lost his cool on two separate reporters who pressed him to answer whether classes would be in session, after they told the governor that parents were also confused over what the plan would be.

The governor called one reporter "obnoxious and offensive" after the journalist questioned whether the city or state was in charge of the decision, and asked, "for the millions of parents who want to know, are the schools going to open tomorrow in New York City?"

After dodging that question, another reporter asked Cuomo, "I guess the point blank question is, are schools going to be open tomorrow in New York City."

Cuomo accused both reporters of not paying attention, but he never answered the question.

CNBC reported that Cuomo had acknowledged Friday on a call with reporters, "The problem is not coming from the schools. It's coming from the bars, the restaurants, the gyms and the living room family spread. So if in fact you do close schools, I would urge the mayor and all involved to open them as quickly as possible."

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