Photo: Edwin Martinez / Impremedia
Three weeks have passed since the new school year began in New York City, with nearly 1 million children returning to classrooms from the more than 1,600 schools in all five boroughs, and parents like Pilar Rodríguez, who has two children at an elementary school in Long Island City, Queens, confess to not being quite sure how COVID-19 is currently affecting the schools.
The mother of the family assured that although she receives daily reports from the school authorities of the school where her children study, about the number of positive cases that are discovered, she does not know whether to feel “calm or worried”because she says that outside the campus she hears information that confuses her.
“The truth is that right now I’m making balls, because I don’t know exactly what’s going on with the COVID, if it is gone, if there is no longer a pandemic or if we are at risk again, ”says the Mexican, who made reference to recent statements by President Biden, who stated that the country was no longer in a pandemic. “At school I also keep hearing that there are children and teachers getting sick and even that classrooms have been closed, and most of the little ones I know have not been vaccinated, and that worries me, but the teachers tell us that things are fine. But on the news I hear that there are thousands of cases every day.”
In doubts like these, the Department of Education of the City of New York (DOE) gave a piece of calm about the impact that COVID has had on schools.
According to data provided by that agency, although currently the vast majority of schools are reporting some COVID cases, As can be seen in an interactive map that they have prepared so that parents can directly monitor what is happening in real time, there are no closed schools or schools under evaluation.
However, and despite the fact that the DOE has not yet provided the percentage of positivity for COVID in school facilities, which for many months have been considered the safest places in the Big Apple for this disease, the data reveals that 1,237 infections (882 among students and 355 among teachers and school staff) were reported on the last day. The rate of daily infections in the entire city currently it is 9.2%.
Also a total of 4,931 classrooms they have been closed since the school year began, as have 17 schools, but all are now reopened; 20,665 children have been partially quarantined in the classroom, 167 schools have been evaluated for COVID cases and 883 children are quarantined outside in their homes.
Jenna Lylea spokeswoman for the Department of Education, insisted that the city’s schools are prepared to continue guaranteeing the safety of children and teachers in relation to COVID-19.
“The safety and well-being of our students, staff, and school communities entire schools has been, and continues to be, our top priority during the pandemic,” said the school official. “It is essential that our students remain in classrooms, receiving in-person instruction and the comprehensive supports they need.”
The DOE spokeswoman stressed that “As always, we will continue to follow the science and adjust the guidance if necessary.”
Within the current protocols there is an expansion of the surveillance testing program in schools to double the number of people tested, including unvaccinated students and vaccinated students, as well as staff.
Also the DOE ensures that “every student and adult in a classroom with a positive case will immediately receive a rapid home test kit and must take two tests in five days.”
Schools also remain committed to “making vaccination easily accessible and available to all (…) and fully functioning ventilation systems supported by two air purifiers in each classroom.”
Regarding school closures as a preventive measure, the DOE added that “they will be closed only when the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) determines that there is widespread transmission. With the health and safety measures in place, we expect school closures to be limited.”
Pedro Frisneda, spokesman for the Department of Health of the City of New York, also revealed that the health authorities of the Big Apple continue to work together with schools in order to guarantee that COVID infections remain low, but warned that we must not lower our guard.
“We have been in a transition phase for a long time between emergency and endemicity. We are no longer in this emergency phase of the pandemic, but we have not yet defined what the new normality or endemicity is like and this is our process to get there,” said the Health official, calling on parents to vaccinate. to their children.
“We have seen a sustained decline in cases and hospitalizations. However, we have seen time and time again how new variants and augmentations are just around the corner. The best way to protect yourself and your children against future surges is to get vaccinated or get a booster dose, if the time is right,” added Frisneda. “The city is promoting the vaccine/booster in communications with school families, including letters accompanying home tests that are sent to students after exposure. These communications include information about the new boosters and the vaccine search site so families can find sites with the new boosters.”
COVID-19 in NYC schools in the new school year by the numbers
- 1,237 new infections in schools
- 882 of the infections have occurred among students
355 of those infected have been teachers and school staff
4,931 classrooms have been closed but all are currently reopened
262,126 cases of COVID among children and staff have been reported in the last year in schools
883 children are currently quarantined outside the classroom due to COVID
20,665 children are in partial quarantine in the classroom
167 schools have been tested for COVID cases
17 schools have been closed due to COVID
49.2% of children under the age of 18 remain unvaccinated
50% is the percentage of children without vaccine among Latinos
45% of children between the ages of 5 and 12 are still not vaccinated
Protocols with which public schools combat COVID-19
- Vaccination continues to be considered by the DOE as the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19. You can call 877-829-4692 to find a location near you.
- Vaccination is still required for all visitors entering school buildings.
- Vaccination still required for all DOE employees
- Vaccination is still required for other people who work in DOE buildings
- Vaccination is no longer required to participate in high-risk extracurricular activities, including high-risk PSAL sports.
- Stay home if you are sick: Students and staff should stay home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses and get tested for COVID-19.
- Isolate if COVID-19 positive: Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 5 days and may return to school on day 6 if they are symptom-free or if symptoms are improving. They must wear a mask until day 10 after symptom onset or the date of the positive test, whichever comes first.
- These cases should be reported to your school so they can be reported in the waiting room for exposure notifications.
- Should be tested if exposed to COVID-19: Students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 should be tested
- These individuals should receive home tests from their school and take two tests, at least 24 hours apart, on day 4 and day 5 of their exposure.
- All exposed people should monitor for fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days after their exposure. If symptoms start, they should not attend school and should isolate and be tested for COVID-19 again immediately.
- Beginning the first day of school, schools will offer home testing kits to those with possible exposure at school and those with symptoms.
- In addition, each staff member and student will receive 4 tests per month to take home. These tests can be used by school families to test for symptoms, exposures, high-risk activities (such as travel and large gatherings), and can give staff and students immediate results.
- Schools all have situation rooms: where they must report positive cases of COVID-19
- The Situation Room will provide schools with standardized communications for their communities and will notify school communities of cases in their schools via daily email and the daily COVID map.
- Students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly encouraged to wear a mask when exposed to someone with COVID-19
- Ventilation in buildings is monitored daily and any required work done in a timely manner
- Routine cleaning of surfaces will be maintained.