November 19, 2020 -- New York City public school classrooms closed on Thursday and students returned to remote learning because the city’s seven-day test positivity rate for COVID-19 has topped the 3% benchmark. The announcement came Wednesday afternoon.
New York City, once the nation’s epicenter for the pandemic, brought down its coronavirus numbers so far that it became one of the few big-city school systems to put students back in the classroom this autumn. But coronavirus metrics in the city, if not the school system, have been ticking upward in recent weeks.
“New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out (of) an abundance of caution. We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.”
It’s unclear how long students will be out of the classrooms. New York City has the largest school system in the nation, with more than 1.1 million students and 1,800 schools.
The New York Times said about 300,000 students had been taking in-person classes. The rest were engaged in remote learning.
New York City closed the public schools in March as the coronavirus swept through the city. Last summer officials set the 3% positivity rate as a trigger for closing the schools. Other metrics, such as confirmed cases and hospitalizations, have moved upward in the last month, according to the city’s COVID dashboard.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, tweeted support for the action.
“The city established the three percent infection rate threshold to make sure that schools did not become centers to spread the coronavirus. Since the three percent rate has been reached, education will continue but all students will be learning remotely.
"Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can re-open for in-person instruction."
A week ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a tightening of statewide restrictions in response to an increase in coronavirus cases.
All restaurants, bars, gyms, and fitness centers must close at 10 p.m., though food delivery and pickup can continue after 10 p.m., the governor said. Indoor and outdoor gatherings must be limited to no more than 10 people -- a restriction needed because of incidents of coronavirus spread following Halloween parties.