New York City public schools close, perplexing public health experts, educators, parents, students
The country's largest school district will close on Thursday as novel coronavirus rates rise in New York City and the number of cases across the country rises. Students across the city's public school system will now switch to distance learning - creating confusion and frustration among the city's parents, teachers and students.
Meanwhile, even public health experts have questioned the move, pointing out that schools have not proven to be likely transmission hotspots and that the city's bars and restaurants are more likely to be drivers of the spread of coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio made the last call on Wednesday afternoon, which resulted in the city hitting a test positivity rate of 3% over a seven-day moving average - a conservative threshold measured against the rest of the country that de Blasio set as a watermark for the summer flood .
"Today is a tough day, but this is a temporary situation," de Blasio said Wednesday in an afternoon press conference held five hours after the scheduled briefing. "We are all very sad about this decision because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools open," said the mayor, adding, "our schools will be back."
"But we set a very clear standard and we have to adhere to that standard," he added.
The district was one of the first to reopen to face-to-face learning. For eight weeks, around 300,000 of the city's 1.1 million students navigated a mixed schedule for personal and home learning.
The call for shutter schools sparked an uproar among the town's teachers, parents, and students who had to grapple with whiplash - and its impact on curricula and daily life - for what they considered an arbitrary breaker rather than an arbitrary breaker Security considered switches.
"This should have steps, not just stop immediately," said Nora Balla, a third-grade general education teacher at the Brooklyn Charter School in District 14. "We are already feeling the stress and are seeing the kids slide badly."
"I really was just in shock because I feel like school has just opened and I've already gotten used to going to school, waking up and getting used to wearing masks," said eighth grader Brianna Bernal opposite WABC.
(MORE: Laboratories Prepare for Effects of Infection, COVID-19 Test Spike As Thanksgiving Looms)
PHOTO: (FILES) In this file, photography students walk past a public school in Brooklyn, New York on October 5, 2020. (Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images)
Stirring the confusion - the wide spread between the city's positivity rate and that of New York schools, which was 0.23 percent on Monday with more than 140,000 students and staff tested.
The positivity rate varies across neighborhoods and is slightly higher in Staten Island and the Bronx and lower in Manhattan and Queens. In addition, the state and city use different metrics to measure coronavirus infection rates. Currently, the city's 7-day moving average by state standards is 2.5%.
Experts emphasize the mixed signal of schools being closed while other venues - including restaurants and bars - remain open that the CDC has reported are common broadcasting venues.
"Scientifically speaking, 3 percent is nothing magical," said Dr. John Brownstein, epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital and ABC News contributor to ABC. "It's a threshold for evaluating important decisions, but we shouldn't be so binary with this data because it is so prone to behavioral change and these percentages can clearly be changed with other policy decisions."
“Indoor dining, informal meeting is another contribution. We don't see schools making a huge contribution to advancement, ”Brownstein said.
"I think we can shut down other companies that are contributing to the high rate of infection as opposed to the rate of infection at school," Balla told ABC News.
In the former epicenter of the COVID-19 health crisis, New York worked on rigorous health measures for several months to reduce the case rate. It was the first major city in the country to reopen school buildings that, at least in part, offered a piece of normalcy in an otherwise unprecedented time.
Thursday's shutdown indicated a worrying and confusing new phase in the fight against the coronavirus, in which public schools did not appear to be widespread incubators of the virus, despite fears to the contrary.
(MORE: CDC Issues Robust New Thanksgiving Guidelines As Cases Rise In U.S.)
In other states in the country, the positivity thresholds for school closings vary widely: Arizona uses a 7% cutoff while Iowa employs 15%.
The World Health Organization recommends a school closure threshold of 5%.
With the idea of the school being closed before the last call, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested reconsidering the 3% ban.
"Wouldn't you like to keep a student in a 1% [positivity rate] school instead of a 3% street?" he asked at a briefing on Saturday.
"It's sad that young children - especially really young children - are having a profound impact on socio-emotional development," said a Brooklyn-based preschool, special education teacher, and mother of three. She asked for anonymity during a tense time for teachers and found that it is not an easy time for parents who "have to take on much of their child's education".
Dr. Julia Nunan-Saah and Dr. Amanda Wagner, two clinical neuropsychologists at the Child Mind Institute's Learning and Development Center, told ABC News that students “thrive on the relationships and support they receive from teachers and their peers by comparing personal training versus their limit in distance learning . Students who already have social problems may experience regression in developmental skills through distance learning where there are "fewer opportunities to practice socialization".
Nunan-Saah and Wagner also found that issues of domestic violence and child abuse can be an additional challenge in the absence of refuge on campus, when the isolation of distance learning "may make it harder for teachers to notice some of these behaviors" .
Experts suggest that the negative effects can affect households, from student education to home health to parents' ability to play new high-pressure roles, and it does so for families on the lower socioeconomic end of the spectrum , which is already bearing the brunt of the problem, make the pandemic particularly difficult.
Families who are already in dire financial straits and hit by the pandemic now have fewer cushions to fall back on when layoffs. They also find it harder to afford childcare and less flexibility to balance work and temporary schooling.
The Family Homelessness Coalition urged the city not to forget the 114,000 homeless children at high risk of relapse.
"For the 114,000 homeless children in New York City, school closings are not only frustrating - they pose a threat to their well-being," said a coalition statement. "For a child living in shelters, temporary shelters or apartments." Doubled up, distance learning is hardly an option. Many lack basic necessities such as WiFi access, a functioning tablet or even physical space for learning and learning. New York City cannot stand idly by as our most vulnerable children fall even further behind. "
It's an inequality that some New York parents haven't lost who found public schools are now closed, not private ones.
"My daughter will wake up in a city where the kids in our neighborhood who go to private schools, go to Catholic schools and go to charter schools, their schools remain open and my daughter's are closed," said Karen Vaites, a Manhattan parent, said WABC. “And that's just wrong. It's unjust and wrong. "
Some experts suggest taking a more holistic approach to making decisions about when schools should close and using a variety of metrics to come up with insights like the number of hospitalizations rather than the overall rate, which may not be all Tell history.
"It makes it difficult to rely on one measure," Brownstein said. "The nuances in the community are not taken into account. They don't want to just rely on the [positivity rate] as it depends on the test population."
"I would like to remind everyone listening here today that the school is still in session," said New York Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at the press conference on Wednesday, emphasizing: "We consider this a temporary closure."
ABC News' Aaron Katersky, Eric Strauss and Sony Salzman contributed to this report.
Priya Amin is a Columbia University Masters Candidate in Narrative Medicine. Ramie Fathy is a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Alexis E. Carrington, M.D., is a dermatology researcher at the University of California at Davis. All are employees of the ABC News Medical Unit.
New York City public schools are closing, and public health experts, educators, parents and students originally posted on abcnews.go.com
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