New York City’s schools will ramp up testing to limit classroom closures

New York City’s schools will ramp up testing to limit classroom closures

New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, will eliminate its current policy of quarantining entire classrooms exposed to Covid, and will instead use a ramped-up testing program to allow students who test negative for the coronavirus and do not have symptoms to remain in school.

The new policy, which Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to as “Stay Safe and Stay Open” during his announcement Tuesday, will take effect Jan. 3, when the nearly 1 million students who attend the city’s public schools are scheduled to return from holiday break. More than 27,000 new virus cases were reported in New York City on Tuesday, and more than 2,300 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the state’s most recent count.

De Blasio, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office Saturday, appeared together at a news conference to present a united front against school closures, despite an enormous surge in cases driven by the omicron variant that has only worsened in the days since city schools closed for winter break last week.

“Your children are safer in school, the numbers speak for themselves,” Adams said.

Instead of delaying the start of in-person school and pivoting to remote learning, the city will double the amount of random surveillance testing it conducts, in hopes of detecting more infections while mitigating disruptions.

Hochul on Tuesday called remote learning a “failed experiment,” while lauding “the very best efforts of incredibly hardworking, passionate teachers who did their very best with remote teaching and the parents who were just pulling their hair out at kitchen tables, trying to make sure that it worked successfully.”

New York’s new schools policy is the latest example of how the country is trying to respond to the omicron variant without implementing disruptive and unpopular large-scale shutdowns. Officials are walking a tightrope as cases increase at an alarming rate: On Tuesday, the United States record for daily coronavirus cases was broken, with the seven-day average topping 267,000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday shortened the amount of time that people who test positive need to isolate from 10 days to five, as long as they are asymptomatic and wear high-quality masks while around others.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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