New York City Preparing To Open Schools in the Fall Without A Plan That Makes Sense And With a Test & Trace System That Lacks Equity

New York City is desperate and under pressure to open schools in the Fall without a plan that makes sense. New Yorkers are still testing positive. If schools open in the Fall, which is less than 6 weeks away, all signs point to the fact that there will be increased positive COVID cases, which will impact students, teachers, parents and grandparents. Higher positive cases leads to increased deaths.

By all accounts the New York City Test & Trace system is not working and equity remains a serious issue.  The high needs areas are receiving the least amount of resources and attention, which means neighborhoods like East New York, Brownsville, Flushing, Co Op City and other areas will see an increase number of positive cases, leading to increased deaths.

See the statement from New York City below.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza recently announced health and safety protocols, including guidance for testing and tracing, for schools for the start of the 2020-21 school year. These protocols will apply to all school communities and will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are doing everything in our power to keep kids healthy while ensuring they are getting the education they deserve. These rigorous test and trace protocols will keep our students and staff safe as we start off this new school year,” said Mayor de Blasio.

In preparation for the start of school, the DOE is purchasing large orders of hygiene supplies on behalf of schools. These supplies include, but are not limited, to, facial coverings for students, teachers, and staff; disinfectant; hand sanitizer; and electrostatic sprayers. School leadership and facilities staff in every school are reviewing school space and making necessary repairs and adjustments to ensure safe conditions for in-person student learning this fall.

All staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days before the first day of school. School staff will have priority access for free testing at 34 city-run testing locations, with tests provided with expedited results. This testing is also available for families citywide.

When school buildings reopen, all schools will be required to enact precautions to prevent, identify, and address the spread of COVID-19. Daily precautions include:

  • An isolation room for students with symptoms with a dedicated staff member or health professional
  • Physical distancing and required facial coverings
  • Cleaning throughout the day and nightly disinfecting
  • Clear communication with families and school community

If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested. If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their parents or guardians. Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building.

Whether symptoms begin at home or in school, there will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread. A positive case can be reported to a school by a staff member, a parent, or a student. A positive confirmed case will trigger an investigation by the NYC Test + Trace Corps and DOHMH to determine close contacts within the school. Schools will communicate to all families and students within school any time a case is laboratory confirmed.

The DOE is working in tight coordination with DOHMH and the NYC Test + Trace Corps to identify, isolate, and prevent spread of COVID-19. In the event that there is a laboratory- confirmed case in a school, all students and teachers in that class are assumed close contacts and will be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure to that case. Additionally, DOHMH and NYC Test + Trace Corps will begin an investigation into the risk of exposure to the school community and work with the DOE to issue clear guidance and decisions for next steps based on the outcome.

Whenever a student is isolating or quarantining at home, the expectation is that they continue engaging with learning remotely if they are feeling well enough. If a school is closed, the school will communicate by 6 P.M. on the night before about the status of opening the next morning, based on the status of the investigation. A school building will not reopen without confirmation from public health experts that it is safe.

While developing this reopening plan to submit to New York State, the Department of Education consulted with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), NYC Health + Hospitals, the NYC Test + Trace Corps and labor officials.

These protocols center the health of our students and staff at the very core of this school year, while pursuing the resumption of in-person learning and educational services. The City will continue to closely monitor health conditions, and if community transmission begins to rise across the boroughs, a decision may be made to close all schools and switch to full-time remote learning.