NYC schools: 4 or more COVID cases in a week will prompt school closure

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NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a replacement for New York City’s “two-case” COVID-19 school closure rule on Thursday.

Under the new rule, schools will only close if there are four or more cases in different classrooms of a school, within seven days, that can be traced to exposure inside the school, the mayor said.

This rule also applies to individual schools as opposed to the entire building. If cases are reported, an investigation takes place, but the whole school does not need close for 24 hours while the investigation is ongoing, according to Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter.

Classroom quarantines will continue if a positive case is identified in a classroom.

The update comes after the mayor and schools chancellor announced Monday the city would be getting rid of the rule amid the success of vaccinations and continued control of the virus spread in schools. 

“We’ve heard the voices of our school communities calling for increased stability around in-person learning,” Porter said Monday.

Schools had previously been forced to shut down for 10 days if two positive COVID-19 cases were detected. Many parents complained about the rule, arguing it caused instability. 

Porter said changing the two-case rule was a consistent request from both parents and educators. 

President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew said their goal is to make sure schools do not become a “center for the spread of the virus.”

“Our rigorous COVID precautions have meant that schools have been the safest public spaces in New York City — with an infection rate of less than one percent, even when community infection rates are much higher.

One component, agreed to by our independent medical experts, was the 2-case rule – temporarily closing schools where two unlinked cases of COVID had been discovered (unlinked cases are cases in different classrooms or in student pods that were not in contact with each other).

Now, with our increased knowledge about the spread of the virus, and as more teachers and other school staff have been vaccinated, our medical experts are convinced that the rule can be changed and still maintain safety.

Our goal, then and now, is to ensure that the school building does not become a center for the spread of the virus from the community.

Under our new agreement with the city, any classroom where infection is discovered will be immediately closed. Testing for the entire school will double —from the current twenty percent to forty percent – if two or more classrooms are affected. 

If infections are discovered in four different classrooms from a known source in the school, the school will be closed for ten days.

This change will mean that while many classrooms will continue to close, the number of overall schools closed will decline, a repeated request of both teachers and parents.

While this is a step forward, the most important fact in the public school opening debate is that the overwhelming majority — some seven hundred thousand public school families – continue to opt for remote instruction.

If we are going to have anything like a normal opening in September, the Mayor needs to find ways to assure them that our COVID precautions remain strong and that schools are safe for their children.”

The mayor also extended the opt-in deadline for in-person learning to Friday, April 9, citing that the two-case rule was a continuous concern among families.

This will be the last opt-in period for children for the 2020-21 school year. 

Parents can opt their children in for in-person learning on the Dept. of Education website.

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