Mayor Bill de Blasio closing schools on Wednesday. He has been widely criticized for the decision
Mayor Bill de Blasio is being slammed for closing public schools – the only thing he has the authority to shut – while bars, restaurants and private schools remain open.
The mayor on Wednesday announced that starting Thursday morning, all public schools in New York City would switch to remote learning because the test positivity rate across New York was 3 percent. It was a threshold he set earlier this year.
The test positivity rate in schools is only 0.19 percent.
What’s more, many private schools – which will only be forced to shut down if Governor Andrew Cuomo orders them to – remain open.
Now it has been revealed that de Blasio’s advisors told him his 3 percent standard was a flawed threshold that would result in some kids being unnecessarily sent home, driving their parents out of work again and sparking panic among city residents.
Indoor dining is still allowed at bars and restaurants. On Wednesday, Cuomo said that will soon come to an end if the positivity rate in New York City rises by another 0.5 percent.
Outdoor dining would still be allowed but only with four people maximum at a table. While outdoor dining gave the hospitality industry a lifeline throughout the summer and fall, temperatures are fast dropping and even spaces with outdoor heaters will struggle to draw in as many people.
On a call with reporters on Thursday, Cuomo said he was not yet at that point because the New York City positivity rate was still 2.5 percent, by his numbers. He shirked questions about school closures, saying it was down to de Blasio.
Statewide, the positivity rate decreased from 3.4 percent to 2.7 percent. Without counting the most troublesome zones, it has decreased from 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent.
According to a senior official cited by The New York Daily News, ‘senior city health officials have expressed to the mayor and his administration their disagreement and concern with using the 3 percent threshold to close schools in the city, given that schools themselves are not at 3 percent and that transmission in schools is not as big a concern as it is in other settings like bars and restaurants.’ A spokesman for de Blasio’s office denied it.
Despite their expertise and complaints among parents that he is ‘oppressing’ the city, de Blasio is standing by the decisions and insisting that Cuomo will soon issue lockdown orders for private schools and businesses.
It seems increasingly likely given the rising COVID-19 rate and the growing number of deaths and hospitalizations across the city. On Wednesday, the infection rate in New York City, according to state numbers, was 2.5 percent.
Cuomo says he’ll start shutting things down if it hits 3 percent. There were 35 deaths across the state – a marked increase from the single digit numbers seen in the summer.
It falls in line with the national trend of rising COVID-19 cases. Panic buying has started again in some states and many cities are struggling to keep up with the number of people lining up for tests again.
Teachers, parents and children protest outside of City Hall, Manhattan, against the closure of New York schools. New York, United States. November 19 2020
Parents protest demanding that public schools remain open, outside New York’s City Hall on November 19
Children take part in a protest demanding that public schools remain open, outside New York’s City Hall on November 19
A sign on the door of a closed public school in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 18 November 2020. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on 18 November that the city’s entire public school system, the largest in the country, will indefinitely suspend all in-school classes
On Thursday morning, de Blasio was was roasted during an appearance on CBS This Morning where gave no other reason for sticking to the three percent threshold other than ‘because we were once the epicenter’.
He insists that Cuomo is about to shut down New York City, and is using that as his justification.
‘The governor made clear yesterday that New York State is going to very soon be applying an orange zone standard to New York City.
‘That will be closing indoor dining. Those restrictions are coming very soon,’ he said.
He insisted that his decision is not ‘political in the least’, adding: ‘We’re dealing with a new circumstance, a surge that we have to be very, very concerned about.
‘We’ve got to reset this equation.
‘So, I say to my fellow parents, I don’t expect this to go for long, I expect us to come up with a new standard that’s more stringent.
‘We’re going to ask a lot of parents – we’re going to ask them to get their kids tested a lot, but then we can come back.’
Asked why he took the decision to close schools when everything else was open, he said: ‘Because we were the epicenter of this crisis.’
He also warned that he would enforce a tougher standard once they reopened but did not say what that would be.
Governor Cuomo said on Wednesday that there is bound to be a ‘tremendous spike’ in cases after Thanksgiving next week that will speed up a lockdown.
Cuomo became frustrated on Wednesday as journalists questioned him on whether or not schools would be open tomorrow, and whether the decision was down to him or Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He called the first reporter who asked him about it ‘obnoxious’ and said he hadn’t been paying attention.
He then bit back at the second reporter who asked if schools would be open tomorrow, then snapped at a third who asked if it was him or de Blasio who made the rules.
‘You don’t know?’ he asked repeatedly.
Since the start of the pandemic, parents in New York City have found the conflicting remarks and rules confusing.
In his letter to teachers, the schools chancellor said: ‘This as been an eventful and challenging year on so many levels.
‘With your efforts and contributions, our school buildings have been safe places for teaching and learning for hundreds of thousands of students over the past several weeks.
‘To date, we have seen a COVID-19 positivity rate of 0.19 percent out of 120,000 students and staff tested.
This has been reassuring sign that our schools are safe, and we are grateful for the tireless work you do to ensure this is possible.’
New York City is still well below its threshold for hospitalization but cases are increasing