Children get their temperatures checked returning to school in NYC, image credit The New York Times
On Sunday October 4th, New York City officials announced that they would be reversing reopening measures and resuming tighter restrictions in 20 of the city’s neighborhoods. The reversal came just three days after New York public schools had officially welcomed back 500,000 students in grades K-12 to hybrid in-person classes, although some elementary students had already returned earlier that week.
As the only major urban school district in the country to fully reopen, New York Public Schools had initially appeared to be a success story, with students attending in-person classes only two or three days per week to limit infection risk. However, officials concerned about the emergence of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in New York were alarmed when positive test rates began to rise in nine zip codes where schools had opened alongside the loosening of other restrictions.
While the first students did not begin arriving in New York schools until Monday October 1st, teachers and other staff were back in buildings as early as September 8th. During that time, staff members tested positive in 100 different schools around the city, although many of those schools remained open in compliance with guidelines that schools stay open unless students or staff tested positive in multiple cohorts and classrooms.
While some schools in NYC remain open, many were only able to manage four days of classes before closing again. There is no evidence that rising infection rates in the nine affected zip codes are directly linked to schools, as other restrictions – such as a prohibition on indoor dining – were also lifted in the same period, but even this partial shutdown of the only major urban school district in the country to have so far attempted a hybrid reopening is disheartening.