New York Begins New COVID Restrictions For Businesses; NYC Schools Closely Monitoring Infection Rate

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Schools in New York City could be forced to shut down in-person learning as early as Monday.

As CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reports, the COVID positivity rate in the city has been going up, and if it hits 3%, which could happen this weekend, students won’t be allowed back into the classroom.

The warning came from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who says parents need to prepare for the possibility their kids won’t be allowed back until next month, despite the fact schools have been relatively safe.

“The testing shows very few people have tested positive in our schools, that’s a great blessing. But when you see the rest of the city, unfortunately, experiencing this generalized problem, we’ve got to act out of an abundance of caution,” the mayor said.

He said parents should get ready.

“Have a plan an alternative plan for as early as Monday,” the mayor said. “If we get to that point, the goal is bringing it back as soon as possible.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent guidance to principals Thursday night, saying he believes it will be “a brief time of fully remote learning systemwide.”

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Though the New York State standard is 9%, the teachers union is sticking to a smaller standard of 3%, because New York City schools have a higher density.

“Three percent is hard and fast,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “This is all part of a plan… we had independent medical experts to help put it together.”

At the moment, the positivity rate citywide over the last week is at 2.83%, while at schools, that number is below 1%. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo agrees, saying so far things have worked.

“The infection rate in the schools is not the problem, the infection rate in the schools is very low,” Cuomo said.

That has parents like Lauren Lavitt frustrated.

“I’m really disappointed if they close schools,” she said.

She’s hoping if there’s a closure, it’s short lived.

The mayor announced some exemptions to the closures, including Pre-K and 3k community organizations.

Meanwhile, new restrictions on New York restaurants, bars and gyms took effect Friday.

New restrictions on indoor dining and youth sports are now in effect in New Jersey, where the statewide positivity rate is at more than 12%.

There’s also a grim sign in Connecticut, where hospitalizations have doubled over the past two weeks.

As CBS2’s John Dias reports, the morning routine at PS 89 hasn’t changed since the Battery Park City school reopened with temperature checks and health screenings. Many parents say precautions are working, but fear a citywide closure is on its way.

“The schools are doing a great job, and everyone is doing the best they can,” said Battery Park City resident Brooke Travis.

“The in-person is much more impactful and empowering. I can’t do what the teachers do,” said Erika lackmann.

Staten Island Catholic schools have already gone fully remote, something 4th grader Pedro Klotz doesn’t want to switch back to.

MORE: Mayor De Blasio Says If City COVID-19 Positivity Rate Goes Above 3% Schools Will Close The Next Day

“Because I could see my friends,” he said.

This comes as restaurants, bars and gyms across the state have a new daily closing time starting Friday – 10 p.m.

One man says at least it’s not as bad as his family has it in Italy under lockdown.

“There is much more freedom and liberty that we have here than the tight restrictions elsewhere,” said Giuseppe Baldassarre.

In Connecticut, where the positivity rate is 4.8%, hospitalizations have doubled in the last two weeks.

“Given the ramp up around the country and in our state, we’re bringing in the reinforcements,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

In New Jersey, where new restrictions on indoor dining and youth sports took effect Thursday night, Gov. Phil Murphy said despite wild rumors, he has no plans to close schools. He added he is fed up by the lack of mask wearing, sharing a warning for those who say face coverings aren’t comfortable.

“You know what isn’t comfortable? When you die,” he said.

All three Tri-State Area governors are concerned about more spread during Thanksgiving. People are urged to celebrate with only their immediate families or keep gatherings extremely small.

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