New York City public school students who learn alongside COVID-19-positve classmates can stay in school if they test negative for the virus using scaled-up at-home testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
“Every child who tests negative comes back to school,” de Blasio said during a virtual press briefing, dubbing the approach “stay safe and stay open.”
When a public school student tests positive for COVID-19, beginning Jan. 3 all children in their class will be given two at-home testing kits to use for seven days, and each child who is negative and does not demonstrate virus symptoms can return to school, the mayor explained.
“This guarantees more consistency in their education, it guarantees fewer disruptions,” he said. “The jury has come back, we have a lot of evidence now, it’s told us this is the approach that’s going to work for the future.”
De Blasio noted that 98 percent of close contacts of public school students who test positive for the virus do not end up contracting it as well.
The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reduced its recommended quarantine period from 10 days to five for those who no longer have symptoms.
In recent months, city officials have opted to shutter entire classrooms in the event of an exposure and to move impacted students to remote learning for 10 days. Roughly 4,700 classrooms have been closed this academic year.
But the city’s new guidelines allow kids who test negative after an infection emerges to remain in school. In addition, the city will increase the frequency of random in-school testing of students and staff, de Blasio announced.
Joined remotely by Tuesday morning by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor-elect Eric Adams, de Blasio revealed that weekly testing in Department of Education schools will be doubled when schools return after Christmas break. The testing will now include vaccinated as well as unvaccinated pupils, he said
“We’re going to double the amount of testing we do in schools,” the mayor said, adding the city will launch a “big push” to encourage parents to sign consent forms for testing. “These are the things we’re going to do to keep everyone safe.”
Hochul touted the 600,000 rapid tests the state sent to the city Department of Health last week, setting up five state-run testing sites opening Wednesday in the five boroughs and 10 additional ambulances the state dispatched to the Big Apple.
“The state and city [are] working together. We’re going to make sure there’s no shortage of supply,” she said during the press briefing.
Adams, who will succeed de Blasio on Jan 1., praised Hochul and the mayor for being “unified” in handling the virus.
“We must reopen the city and we can do that. And so, you and the governor and I are sending a clear message to New Yorkers and to this entire country that we are together to fight this real battle that we have,” said the outgoing Brooklyn borough president.
“We’re saying loud and clear: Your children are safer in school and we are united to make sure they will continue to be safe.”