NYC changes COVID closure rule to 4 cases, but many families aren’t convinced it’s a meaningful change

Reopening Schools

NEW YORK — The city is ending its “two-case” COVID-19 school closure rule, and replacing it with a “four-case” rule.

The move is intended to prevent the city’s 1,700 public schools from having to close as frequently as they have so far this academic year. However, many families aren’t convinced that it makes the situation safer for them.

Under the new rule, schools will only close if there are four or more cases in different classrooms of a school, within seven days, that can be traced to exposure inside the school, said Mayor Bill de Blasio at his daily briefing on Thursday.

The new rule also applies to individual schools, as opposed to the entire building, according to Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, who was also at the briefing.

“If cases are reported,  an investigation takes place, but the whole school does not need to close for 24 hours while that is ongoing,” Porter said.  “And I know all of the parents along with me are shouting a big hooray for that,” she added.  

However, some parents were not cheering the measure.

Arnaldo Byun is the father of a first grader at PS 150 in Sunnyside, Queens. He was among a variety of parents who said that the school had had to close during the school year because of COVID concerns.

“I understand people want in-person learning for their jobs or whatever. I get it,” Byun said. “[But] I think [the four-case rule] will speed up the process of the kids getting sick, and now the summer’s ruined.” 

Over 70,000 of the city’s 1 million public school students are learning remotely this academic year.  

Yadira Rojas, a 10th grader at Long Island City High School, is among the remote learners. She said that her family is concerned that the new rule won’t help stop viral spread. 

“There’s probably going to be more cases because of that because they’re allowing it to keep going,” she said.  

However, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, said that the new measures are more safe than the previous, two-case rule.  

“Our classroom and school closure rules will remain stricter than the CDC’s recommendation,” Chokshi said at the mayor’s briefing.  

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s biggest teachers’ union, said in a statement that his union worked with the DOE to ensure greater safety.

However, Mulgrew added, “if we are going to have anything like a normal opening in September, the Mayor needs to find ways to assure them that our COVID precautions remain strong and that schools are safe for their children.”

Families who spoke with PIX11 News also said that their focus is on having their children safe and healthy in the new school year.

Maria Rodriguez has a son who attends PS 150.  

“Only if all kids are vaccinated, I would send them” to school in the fall, she said.

Byun, the first grade parent, agreed that changing the COVID-19 closure rule now seems largely moot.

“Right now it’s so close to the end of the year, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

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