Home featured N.Y.C. Closes Some Schools … Again

N.Y.C. Closes Some Schools … Again

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ImageBrooklyn’s Borough Park and Gravesend areas have positivity rates hovering around 8 percent.
Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio dialed back New York City’s school reopening this weekend, announcing a plan to close public and private schools in nine Brooklyn and Queens ZIP codes where coronavirus cases are surging.

The outbreaks already threaten the fragile reopening of the New York City public school system. They may also send shock waves nationwide, for officials in other large metropolitan areas who are tracking the city’s progress.

Areas With New Restrictions





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ATLANTIC OCEAN

ZIP codes with major restrictions

ZIP codes with lesser restrictions

ATLANTIC OCEAN

ZIP codes with major restrictions

ZIP codes with lesser restrictions

ATLANTIC OCEAN

ZIP codes with major restrictions

ZIP codes with lesser restrictions


Source: Mayor’s office

By Scott Reinhard

The nine restricted areas, home to about half a million people, all have large populations of Orthodox Jews, who have been reluctant to adhere to guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing. The virus devastated some communities in the spring and summer, leading some people to believe — incorrectly, experts say — that they had developed herd immunity.

For now, there’s good news for citywide reopenings: The closings were not prompted by any specific outbreaks in schools. “We have seen very little coronavirus activity in our schools,” de Blasio said. Most of the schools that closed are private yeshivas, along with about 100 public schools.

But if the city’s average test positivity rate — currently about 1.5 percent — reaches 3 percent over seven days, the entire public school system would have to close under existing rules. Some of the nine affected neighborhoods have positivity rates as high as 8 percent.

“If [the] state approves this plan, it would avert a looming fight with the teachers’ union, which for days has been calling on de Blasio to close schools in specific ZIP codes before letting the overall test positivity rate reach high enough to shut down the entire school system,” our colleague Eliza Shapiro noted on Twitter.

How more testing catches outbreaks earlier

Keeping New York’s schools open will require detecting outbreaks before they grow too big. Researchers modeled how large an outbreak at an average New York school would grow before it is very likely to be detected.





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If a school tests 10% of students and staff

every two weeks…

… an outbreak could grow to 22 people before the first infection is identified — making it very difficult to control.

Detected

infection

339 in-person students and staff

If a school tests 50% of students and staff every two weeks…

…an outbreak could grow to 4 people before the first is identified — much more manageable.

Detected

infection

If a school tests 10% of students and staff every two weeks…

…an outbreak could grow to 22 people before the first infection is identified — making it very difficult to control.

Detected

infection

339 in-person students and staff

If a school tests 50% of students and staff every two weeks…

…an outbreak could grow to 4 people before the first is identified — much more manageable.

Detected

infection


Note: Figures represent the sizes of outbreaks that can be detected at least 90 percent of the time if each percentage of students were tested every two weeks.

Source: Anna Bershteyn and R. Scott Braithwaite, New York University

By The New York Times

Read More: N.Y.C.’s plan to randomly test students in each public school may fall short, according to new research from New York University. The city plans to test a random sample of 10 to 20 percent of students and staff members each month. But to nip outbreaks in the bud, the researchers say the city needs to test about 50 percent of the school population, twice a month. That may not be achievable without a huge increase in resources.

Credit…Mike Belleme for The New York Times

Since last Monday, when a sophomore at Appalachian State University died from suspected Covid-19 complications, the school has hunkered down. Students in Boone, N.C., are in shock over the death of 19-year-old Chad Dorrill. Some are thinking about their own mortality.

“When someone our age actually passes away, it’s harder,” said Kathryn Behmer, 19. “We thought it wouldn’t affect us. We’re young, we’re healthy.”

Young people have generally been at lower risk of developing severe cases, but that statistical advantage has led to troubling apathy. Cases spiked sharply last week at Appalachian State. Surrounding Watauga County also experienced its worst seven-day period in the pandemic this past week, according to data collected by The New York Times. Coronavirus cases in the county have more than doubled since Sept. 1, to more than 1,300, and an update last week found “the largest percentage of cases in the 18- 24-year-old age group.”

Now, at least at Appalachian State, that apathy might be drying up. “I wear my mask for Chad” has become a catchphrase. And Emma Metzger, a senior, called Dorrill’s death “a big wake-up call for a lot of people,” though she pointed out that many students “still only wear masks because they don’t want people to think badly of them in public.”

On Thursday, the school announced outbreaks in four residence halls, two fraternity houses, the volleyball team and the football program.

Despite warnings from the faculty, which voted to hold the system responsible for any illness or death as a result of reopening, students live in dorms and many classes are held in person. Although student-athletes must be tested under N.C.A.A. rules, Appalachian State has not implemented the kind of costly, widespread mandatory testing and tracing system that has helped control the virus at some campuses.

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Instead, the school offers “pop-up” test sites twice a week and voluntary testing at its student health center. Chancellor Sheri Everts said the school had also added an extra pop-up testing event, expanded contact tracing resources and suspended football practice.


  • Harvard College sent three freshmen home last weekend after finding out that they hosted a party last month, The Harvard Crimson reports.

  • Officials at the University of Oklahoma say there are 250 students and staff members who are being isolated or in quarantine.

  • College football teams are making far more mistakes than usual. Coaches say irregular practices and reshuffled rosters from test results and quarantines are to blame.

  • Across Texas, colleges and universities spent the summer months bulking up their testing capacity for asymptomatic students. But halfway through the semester, schools are reporting participation rates far below their goals, The Texas Tribune reports.

  • Lexi Haskell, a student at Indiana University, wrote a smart, candid reflection about her guilt about contracting the coronavirus and how hard it is to stay safe on campus. “When I drove down to IU in August, I knew I would probably get COVID-19,” she wrote.

  • In the Boston area, isolated first-year students are bonding over an Instagram account, collegesboston2024, which is staffed by seven students working in shifts around the clock.


Ifa Damon, a high school English language arts teacher in Staten Island, N.Y., is teaching anxious students who are dealing with the pandemic and the reckoning over systemic racism. Instead of shying away from difficult issues, she’s leaning in.

“I plan to harness students’ curiosity to address those concerns. Through a model known as community-based learning, educators connect what students learn, based on state standards, to what is happening in their communities,” Damon wrote in The 74.

Damon, a member of Educators for Excellence-New York, shared how she turned her students into “modern-day muckrakers.”

“In these chaotic times,” Damon wrote, “students need a culturally responsive and relevant approach to instruction that creates engaging, collaborative, standards-based learning. All of us would benefit.”

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