‘We are not there yet’: NYC teachers union president skeptical of COVID testing promises

Coronavirus

A woman administers a COVID-19 test on her son at a PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 test pop-up site on Wall Street in Manhattan on Dec. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

NEW YORK — Following promises of ramped up COVID-19 testing at schools and a new at-home testing program for students, the president of the New York City teachers union on Tuesday expressed some skepticism over whether the city will be able to deliver.

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said educators are ready to return to work at the end of winter break on Monday despite the recent record-high COVID case numbers.

“The real issue is whether the city can do its job — ensuring that new testing initiatives are available in every school and an improved Situation Room is actually in place by next week,” Mulgrew said. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio — along with Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor-elect Eric Adams — announced the city Department of Education would double its number of in-school PCR tests for students and staff, and would launch a new test-to-return program in classrooms with a positive case. 

The new program, which is not mandatory, will launch using 1 million at-home rapid test kits provided by the state.

When there’s a positive case in a class, de Blasio said every child in that class will be sent home with an at-home rapid test kit, which includes two tests. If a child tests positive, they stay home. If they test negative and are asymptomatic, they can return. The students will test twice over seven days.

The DOE’s “COVID Situation Room,” which investigates outbreaks and issues guidance on classroom and school closures, will monitor incidents of mass virus transmission — not individual cases — and support the test-to-return program’s rollout.

Mulgrew thanked Hochul for providing the rapid tests and welcomed the Situation Room’s reboot, which he said had essentially unraveled under the sheer number of positive cases in recent weeks.

“We are moving closer to a safe reopening of school next week. But we are not there yet,” he warned.

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