New York City schools to shut down amid rise in coronavirus cases

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New York City public schools will close starting Thursday amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year NYC Schools chancellor sends memo to prepare for period of ‘fully remote learning’ Democratic Rep. Max Rose concedes New York House race MORE (D) announced.

The move is a setback for the city, which still has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country. Officials have worried about a new wave of cases as the number of infections tick upwards in New York and across the country.

“We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19,” de Blasio tweeted Wednesday when announcing the closure, which will affect all public school buildings.

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Officials had previously said schools would close again if the percentage of tests coming back positive in New York City reached 3 percent.

Schools in the city had been closed for most of the pandemic, with students and teachers taking classes online. Schools only opened for in-person learning about eight weeks ago.

De Blasio’s announcement is sure to face criticism, as many public health experts argue schools should be the last things to close, given the negative impact of closures on children’s learning and mental health.

Bars, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers are still open in the city, despite evidence showing all contribute far more to virus spread than schools do.

Few outbreaks involving children or schools have been reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), suggesting the spread of COVID-19 in school settings may be limited.

The move is “ass-backwards,” tweeted Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University. 

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“Should parents drop their kids off at the bar, indoor restaurants or the gym — all of which are still open?” Spencer asked.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since September and the U.S. is now averaging about 160,000 new cases per day, the highest level ever recorded.

While New York City is also seeing increases, it still has one of the lowest positivity rates in the country after being the epicenter of the pandemic this spring.

WHO states a positivity rate of 5 percent means an area can safely reopen schools and businesses; the city’s positivity rate was 3 percent as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Still, city residents are weary of returning to the days of the spring when hundreds of people were dying every day, and officials have warned they would crack down on schools and businesses if the positivity rate began increasing.

Other states and cities have made an effort to keep schools open despite increasing case numbers while closing or adding more restrictions to businesses.

Michigan and Philadelphia have ordered high schools be closed for the next three weeks, but middle and elementary schools will be allowed to remain open.

Studies have shown older children are more likely than younger ones to spread COVID-19.

Schools have remained open in much of Europe, despite a surge in cases across the continent.

–Updated at 3:39 p.m.

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