New York City schools are taking steps to ensure they do not have to shut down as coronavirus cases continue to spike in the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a Tuesday press conference that the state will send 2 million at-home testing kits to schools. These tests can then be sent home with students if one of their classmates tests positive. Those who test negative using the kit will not have to quarantine.
The city will also increase the number of random coronavirus tests each school conducts. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated students are eligible to receive random testing. To ensure that an outbreak does not occur, students and staff are urged to get tested before going back to school.
“This is how we are going to look at schools from this point on, keep them safe and keep them open,” De Blasio said during the conference. He was joined by incoming mayor Eric Adams, who expressed support for the plan and will enforce it once he takes office on January 1.
“Two clear messages we’re sending loud and clear,” Adams said. “Your children are safer in school. The numbers speak for themselves. And we are united to make sure they continue to be safe.”
New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest with about a million students, was one of the first in the nation to reopen to in-person learning after the pandemic hit in 2020, but frequent school or classroom closings due to coronavirus cases proved disruptive.
De Blasio urged parents to get all eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19, but vaccines are not mandated for city students, as they are for teachers and other municipal employees.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who also joined the virtual news conference, has stressed the importance of keeping schools open across the state. She called remote learning “a failed experiment” despite “the very best efforts of incredibly hardworking, passionate teachers who did their very best.”
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, thanked Hochul for providing the 2 million home test kits “so that anyone with close contact with a positive case will be able to know immediately if they are infectious and must quarantine.”
Coronavirus cases have surged in New York City thanks to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Health officials reported about 22,000 new cases of the virus a day in the week that ended Sunday, up from 3,400 a day in the week that ended December 12.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.