Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.
In his press conference this afternoon, Governor Cuomo announced that all of New York City would become an orange zone if its city-wide positivity rate hits 3 percent. Under this micro-cluster strategy, indoor dining and high-risk non-essential businesses like gyms and personal care services would close. Schools would also close, but during the governor’s press conference, New York City Chancellor Richard A. Carranza sent an email to principals that schools would close and go to virtual learning as of tomorrow, as the New York Times first reported.
The slide above from the governor’s press conference today details exactly what would happen if the city were to become an orange zone.
When it comes to schools, Mayor de Blasio told parents last Friday to be prepared for a weekend announcement that schools could be closed on Monday. The city was able to keep its positivity rate below three percent, but many parents have been anxiously awaiting an announcement each day.
New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold. 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.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 18, 2020
Throughout the pandemic, the mayor and governor have been criticized for their lack of coordination. Today’s dueling announcement is seen by many as one more example. While Governor Cuomo refused to answer reporters’ questions on whether or not schools would be open tomorrow, Chancellor Carranza wrote in an email that the city had reached its three percent threshold and would close on Thursday, November 19. The decision affects 1.1 million students who are part of the nation’s largest public school system.
Since the mayor first began discussing the possibility of schools closing, he’s received backlash from those who believe indoor dining and offices should be closed first, especially considering how low the positive rates have been within the school system. Today, Chancellor Carranza himself that New York City’s schools have been “remarkably safe” since reopening, with a 0.19 percent positivity rate.
In a Tweet this afternoon, NYC Councilmember Mark Levine said, “While continuing to allow indoor dining to continue, leaving gyms open, and not even telling NYers they should work from home if they can. THIS IS TOTALLY BACKWARDS.”
In his own eventual press conference this afternoon (he was scheduled to speak at 10am but was five hours late), Mayor de Blasio said the city and state must come together on a blueprint for reopening schools, but the absolute earliest, assuming the infection rate dips below three percent, would be the week after Thanksgiving. The reopening will have an increased focus on testing, so the mayor asked parents to be sure to have their child’s testing consent form filled out.
According to state law, there is a way for schools to “test out” of a closure. In order to do this, a school must remain closed for at least four calendar days after the zone designation is announced (including 48 hours to ensure a lack of infectious contact in the school, and additional time for testing), and may re-open as early as the fifth day. They also must ensure that no person attends in-person without first receiving a negative test result, including faculty/staff and students.
It’s unclear if the state’s larger strategy will now also go into effect. Previously, the cluster zones–red, orange, or yellow, each with varying restrictions–have been smaller pockets of increasing infections, analyzed on a block-by-block basis as opposed to by ZIP code. However, even when it came to the state’s phased reopening plan, New York City often saw stricter regulations than the rest of the state. “That’s their numbers, and we respect that,” said Mayor de Blasio today, noting that the orange-zone outcome seems imminent.
- NYC releases map of positive COVID cases by ZIP code
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- Here’s how to find out if your neighborhood is in a COVID-19 cluster zone