Mayor de Blasio Announces he is Closing All Schools Since the City Has Reached the Three-Percent Level of COVID-19
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everyone. Everyone has been working so hard to fight back the coronavirus. New Yorkers continue to do the right thing, getting tested. So much going on, but this morning we had bad news. We spent some time confirming it and double checking it, because it is exactly on the number of 3.00 percent. But unfortunately, as of today, on our seven-day rolling average for corona virus positivity, New Yorker City had exactly 3.0 percent, and, as a result, we do need to close our schools for the coming days. No one is happy about this decision, we all in-fact are feeling very sad about this decision, because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools open – and opening them up to begin with, let’s start there – opening the schools when almost no other major school system in America opened making them so safe. But we set a very clear standard and we need to stick to that standard, and I want to emphasize to parents, to educators, to staff, to kids that we intend to come back and come back as quickly as possible. We are working right now with the State of New York, and that was a lot of what we talked about this morning. I had a number of conversations with the Governor and our teams have been talking throughout the morning on exactly what it would take to come back and bring our schools back quickly. And it will be a higher standard. I want that to be clear. We have a stringent health and safety standard right now. We’re going to have to raise that up even higher to be able to bring our schools back but that’s exactly what we intend to do. We’re going to have to focus even more on testing. And I want to emphasize, testing is going to be crucial to the successful reopening of our schools and everyone has got to get engaged even more on testing. I guarantee you that part of that plan will be an even heavier emphasis on testing and therefore want to say to everyone in the school communities, starting with parents and kids, we need to get those testing consent forms even as we’re in this moment of pause. We need to get ready to come back. We need everyone to get those testing consent forms in so we can get into a deeper testing regime.
The State – the Governor and I spoke several times. Obviously, he has laid out some of the additional measures the State likely will be taking quite soon in New York City. Additional restrictions across the board that will affect a number of different industries, a number of different parts of life in this city because we are dealing with a bigger problem all over New York City and state, all over the country, the region. We have to do more to fight back this second wave. So, the State has made very clear additional restrictions are coming and coming soon. But we’re focused on now is making sure that we are working with all families to get them the remote learning they need in the interim, that we’re putting more stringent measures in place so we can get schools back up and running soon, that we can protect New Yorkers across the board working with the State to take the right steps to make sure that we address the kind of activities that might create a particular danger and keep people safe. It will come back every single time to the basics, to the mask wearing, to getting the tests. We’re going to keep going deeper on that.
But I want to affirm, before I turn to the Chancellor, I want to affirm that as much as we are unhappy today that this moment was reached, we are resolved to keep fighting. That is what New Yorkers do. And we will overcome this moment. Remember, thank God we’re having this conversation with the backdrop of not one but two vaccines now on the horizon and the fact that we expect to get a lot more support from Washington going forward on a variety of fronts. So, we’re going to fight this back. This is a setback but it’s a setback we will overcome. And I know our Chancellor and everyone at the DOE today is sad that this moment has come but now are resolute about making sure we serve families and kids in the meantime and then getting back up and running with our schools as quickly as possible. Let me now turn to our Chancellor, Richard Carranza.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: So, thank you, Mr. Mayor. You’re absolutely right, this is not a happy for us in the Department of Education. It’s been an eventful and very challenging year in so many ways and to say the least. And our schools have opened and been remarkably safe with a 0.19 positivity rate. They’ve also been safe havens for our children, and we know our students need that interaction so we feel a deep sense of commitment to making sure we can open for in-person learning again as soon as it is physically safe to do so. Just this morning I was visiting at P. S. 73 in the Bronx and I want to give a shout out to Principal Vivian Bueno. And the smiles and the interaction of her teachers and the students and the love and support that those teachers were showing for those students is something I cannot wait – and I know you can’t wait, Mr. Mayor – to see again very soon.
And we carry that same urgency with us today as we announce this temporary closure. And I want to emphasize that we are looking at this as a temporary closure. We will get students back in buildings as soon as we can safely. This is our number priority and our number one focus to get our students back in person as soon as possible. We’re committed to making sure that our students have what they need to be successful and I want to remind everyone that is listening here today that school is still in session. We are pivoting to remote instruction rather than the in-person instruction that some of our students have been receiving. So, school is still in session and students will still continue to learn and be supported by our teachers. And I also want to remind families that we will continue to communicate with families about device support and tips for remote learning.
In addition, free meals for all students will still be available, and this is critically important. Principals will work with their staff to make sure that there are windows of time to pick up materials at buildings over the next several days and as needed throughout this time period. We have focused on these challenges before and we’ve learned a great deal together. New Yorkers have proven that they are ready and willing to do this fight against this virus. We need to ask you that again it’s important that we follow all of the safety protocols. With the holidays coming, please, we understand but it’s important more than ever that we follow the advice of our medical professionals so that we’re able to get back to in-person learning as quickly as possible. That is how we will get our schools back open in person learning. So, again, I’m grateful for the tireless efforts of our educators, staff, and I know our students and families as well. So, please let’s follow the advice, let’s follow the guidance, let’s take on this challenge as we’ve done all along and together, we’ll get through this and we’ll all get back to in-person learning as quickly as possible.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Chancellor. And everyone just to put in perspective, we made a decision to have the most stringent standards in terms of the, as I like to call, the gold standard that we put together to bring back schools, the health and safety measures we put in place. They obviously have worked. They’ve kept our kids, our educators, our staff safe but we also said the three percent standard mattered. Now to put that in perspective and to remember that New York City is in the middle of a battle, we are at three percent. New Jersey, our neighbor, unfortunately, now is at eight percent. Chicago, third biggest city in the country, 16 percent. We are in the midst of a challenge and we cannot let this challenge deepen but we also need to take heart from the fact that we have held off this second wave as well as we have so far, and there’s still more work to be done. That’s why we will need additional restrictions, that’s why we’re going to need everyone to participate even more – everyone to get tested, everyone to pay attention, and act on those core four precautions we’re asking everyone to be a part of. It will make a difference. So, we have a challenge. We’re going to fight back this challenge.
Let me go over today’s indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Threshold, 200 patients. Today, 114. So, we’ve seen some increase there but again, thank God that number still remains lower than the other indicators proportionally, and we still see our hospital system doing well. But the confirmed positivity rate continues to go up again. It is at 43.86 percent among those patients. Okay, number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average. Threshold, 550 cases. Today’s report 1,212. Again, much, much higher than we want it to be. Number three, percentage of people testing citywide positive for COVID-19. Threshold five percent, today’s daily report is 2.75. But the number we’ve looked at the most consistently is the seven-day rolling average and that is literally exactly 3.00 percent.
Each New York City borough's percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows: