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The new rule is intended to keep more public schools open while reassuring parents that the risk to their children is low.
- We turn now to the coronavirus pandemic and the big announcement from Mayor Bill de Blasio. We now know what the new guidelines are to close schools based on coronavirus cases.
- And Now there will be a need to be four or more cases. There will need to be four or more cases of coronavirus in different classrooms to shut down a school.
- Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett on the Lower East Side with the reaction today. NJ?
NJ BURKETT: And right, Joe, it's a little complicated. But the new rule simply means it will take a lot more to shut down a New York City public school, more than two unrelated cases. In fact, it will take a minimum of four unrelated cases in different classrooms, Joe. And even then, only when the illness can be traced directly to the school itself.
So yes, it is a major change in a policy that has existed since the schools reopened in New York in September. Mayor de Blasio, his schools chancellor, and his public health authorities are all in agreement that this policy will allow more parents to feel more confident about opting in for classroom instruction. We'll see how that plays out.
But this is due in large part to the breakneck pace of vaccination. At least 65,000 public school educators and support staff have had at least one vaccination. It is believed that fact is minimizing risk for everybody. The new policy goes into effect on Monday.
BILL DE BLASIO: We're convinced we will have the same extraordinary safety that our schools have had while having more time in school for our kids. I know every day, every hour in school helps a child move forward.
MEISHA PORTER: Schools will only close if there are four or more cases in different classrooms in a school within seven days that can be traced to exposure inside the school. Additionally, this rule applies to individual schools as opposed to the entire building. If cases are reported, an investigation takes place. But the whole school does not need to close for 24 hours while that is ongoing.
NJ BURKETT: And so the question, where is the teacher's union in all of this? Well, the UFT president Michael Mulgrew released a statement this morning, saying that essentially, their medical experts are on board. They agree that schools can safely remain open under this plan. And he also emphasized that testing is going to be stepped up dramatically.