New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, and professional sports (without fans). A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is ourregularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
- LA Announces Plan To Test 700,000 Public School Students
- Trump Donor Running The Postal Service Called To Testify Amid "Startling New Revelations"
- NY State Appeals Ruling Allowing Large Indoor Weddings During Pandemic
1:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday expressed doubt about New York City's school reopening plan, saying he "would want to hear more" if he were a parent faced with the decision of whether to enroll in the city's hybrid program that will offer a mix of in-person and online classes.
“I would not make a decision on a school district saying they have a blended program. I don't know what that means. I have questions," he said to reporters during a press conference.
The governor's less-than-ringing endorsement of the city's school reopening plan comes with less than a month to go before schools are tentatively scheduled to open their doors on September 10th. Although New York City has boasted all-time low positivity rates for coronavirus testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan lacks the support of the influential teachers' union.
Cuomo said he specifically wanted to know more about a school's safety precautions as well as its contact tracing program. New cases, he said, will be inevitable, but added that contact tracing will be a critical tool in containing outbreaks.
Still, the governor has not suggested any specific changes to the city's plan, which has been submitted to state education authorities for approval. Earlier this month, he ordered school districts in the state to hold three to five town hall sessions between teachers and parents by August 21st. New York City, like other large school districts, must hold five sessions.
At the end of July, New York City's Department of Education published its details on handling new coronavirus cases, saying that two cases in two different classrooms would force a school to close. Under the city's plan, the Department of Health would handle contact tracing within the city's school system.
De Blasio also said that the city would close schools if the five-borough-wide positivity rate were to hit 3% according to a seven-day rolling average of tests. Cuomo and public health experts have recommended a cutoff of 5%.
Reached for comment, a New York City DOE spokesperson cited the 3% threshold.
She added: "A blended model for in-person learning is safe and provides educational continuity, and allows for the flexibility to quickly transition to remote learning if there’s a positive case in a school. We know parents are eager for information, and beginning this week schools will start sharing their schedules with families.”
On Monday, Cuomo said that the state would step in and close schools if there was evidence of spread in the community or schools, but he declined to provide a specific criteria.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Cuomo and de Blasio have wrestled over control of the city's school system, which serves about 1 million students.
New York City is currently on track to be the only major school district in the country to hold some in-person classes.
LA Announces Plan To Test 700,000 Public School Students
Los Angeles Unified School District, the country's second largest school district, has said it plans to administer coronavirus tests to nearly 700,000 students and 75,000 employees, making it the most ambitious school testing plan to date.
The testing initiative, which would be ongoing throughout the year, could open a path to re-opening in-person schools. The district has already said it would start the school year entirely remotely. L.A. schools Superintendent Austin Beutner first announced the $150 million plan on Sunday in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles currently has a positivity testing rate of nearly 6%, above the recommended threshold of 5% that public health experts have suggested.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Beutner said in a press release on Monday. “This program will provide public health benefit to all in the school community as well as the greater Los Angeles area. It will also provide significant education benefits for students as it will get them back to school sooner and safer and keep them there.”
Beutner did not say where the funding would come from, according to the LA Times.
The decision by Los Angeles to implement such an aggressive testing program prior to the reopening of classrooms is likely to put pressure on New York City, which is the only major school district in the United States planning to welcome students back into the classroom through a mix of online and in-person learning.
Once the epicenter of the pandemic, New York has now been likened to South Korea with regards to its low infection levels. For more than three months, the positivity rate in New York City has been below 2.3%.
But the school reopening plan introduced by Mayor Bill de Blasio has come under intense criticism from teachers, principals and elected officials as having insufficient safety standards.
Most notably, the Department of Education has not rolled out a widespread testing regimen for students. It is strongly recommending all its residents, including children, to get tested for COVID-19 and asking all staff members to get tested before school starts on September 10th, the tentative opening date.
Once school starts, the DOE will "ask" school-based staff to get tested on a regular basis, at least once a month.
Testing for teachers will not be mandatory, according to a spokesperson for the DOE.
Asked why New York City was not requiring teachers to get tested, Mayor de Blasio during his Monday press conference suggested that the issue was related to the city's negotiations with the teachers' union.
"We want to respect the members of our unions here that are educators," he said, adding that the city was "working with unions on the best approach."
According to the New York Times, the LA public school testing initiative has been in the works for four months. Testing will commence with about a few thousand teachers and other district employees set to work from sanitized schools instead of their homes. Initial testing will also include about 2,000 children of school staff that are enrolled at school-based day care programs.
Student testing will be performed at neighborhood schools and will aim to include family members who show virus symptoms.
Going forward, the district will conduct "sample testing based on epidemiological models will be done for each cohort of staff and students," according to the press release.
The school district is working with researchers at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the University of California, who have offered to perform analysis pro bono. School district officials plan to use apps developed by Microsoft to manage self-screening, tracking and record-keeping.
“The opportunity to use testing to get ahead of the virus was missed in January and again in May due to a lack of capacity,” Mr. Beutner told the NYT.
He said using the time while residents were at home represented another chance.
“We must be ready with a robust system of testing and contact tracing so the third time can be the charm,” he said.