2020-03-16 21:36:041 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
To help control the rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that starting Monday, New York City school will close. In addition, schools on Long Island and in Westchester County will be closing as well.
With more than 1.1 million students, the New York City public school system is the largest in the country, yet they will remain closed until at least April 20, according to de Blasio. Children will not be without education for the next month, however, as a remote learning system is being set up to go into effect later this month.
Yet, many students do not have computers or Internet access in their homes. "We're going to be doing the best we can to supply those kids," said de Blasio at a press conference. "I am distraught at having to take this action," he expressed.
New York Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza estimated that around 300,000 children in the school district don't have access to a computer or the Internet. The city is working with companies to help those students and is going to prioritize the students without those things in their home, in temporary housing, and living in poverty.
He added at the press conference that closing school is "a decision we call the last resort. We're at the last resort."
In the coming days, school locations will be open for grab-and-go meals for some of those students, said Carranza. In general, breakfast and lunch will be made available to students through April 8.
Close to seventy-five percent of New York City students are considered to be economically disadvantaged. Closing the schools could be an economic disadvantage. Parents who can't work from home may find it difficult to find child care or lose income. And some of those families rely on breakfast and lunch being provided for their children.
De Blasio showed concern for the possibility that children won't be supervised when they're at home and said the city is considering the possibility of conducting some youth programs.
Previously to the closure, specific schools with a student or staff member who was confirmed to have the virus were closed for 24 hours. The mayor and governor held off closing the 1,866 public schools, even when pressured, seeing it as a last resort.
"We are going to fight tooth and nail to protect our school system," said de Blasio on Thursday.
Still, the state's schools aren't being closed, despite many states, including Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois announcing they would be closing down all schools for at least two weeks. Some other individual school districts are closing, though, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country.
This amounts to 57,000 schools nationwide being closed as of Saturday, or at least 25.8 million students being affected, according to an EdWeek chart.
The United Federation of Teachers, the union for New York City teachers, has been wanting the schools to shut down, saying not doing so "poses a greater lasting threat than the disruption that will result from school closings."
"We don't suggest this lightly. We understand the immense disruption that will create for our families," said UFT president Michael Mulgrew in a statement Friday.
"But right now more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on Friday that closing schools for two to four weeks at a time does not appear to impact the rate of the world's spread, yet this is the amount of time schools are being closed. It believes closures of eight weeks or more could have more impact.
In addition to schools, several governors closed down bars and restaurants in their states on Sunday to enforce "social distancing" on residents, following similar measures taking place in Europe where the pandemic has put great strain on health resources.
Washington state was the latest to announce it was shutting down restaurants, bars, entertainment, and recreational facilities on Sunday night. Restaurants can still offer takeout and delivery. "Retail outlets can stay open with reduced occupancy," said Gov. Jay Inslee.
Ohio gov. Mike DeWine announced in the afternoon that the state was ordering all bars and restaurants in Ohio to close beginning at 9 pm that night.
"Establishments can stay open for carryout and delivery. What we can't have is people congregating and seated. Every day we delay, more people will die. If we do not act and get some distance between people, our health care system in Ohio will not hold up," said the governor.
He said on CNN earlier in the day he wouldn't be surprised if schools didn't reopen again this academic year. At his press conference that afternoon, he said he eventually plans to also close daycare centers and is urging parents to take their children out if possible.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker followed and ordered all bars and restaurants to close on Monday evening and remain so through March 30.
"I tried earlier this week to appeal to everyone's good judgment to stay home, to avoid bars, not to congregate in crowds," he reprimanded. "It's unfortunate that many people didn't take that seriously. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over. The time for action is here. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people in this state."
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker banned gatherings of more than 25 people on Sunday and ordered restaurants to limit their service to takeout only on Tuesday and remain closed through April 17.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom requested all bars, nightclubs, and wineries to close, stating, "We have the capacity to enforce if necessary." He also asked citizens in his state older than 65 and those with chronic conditions to self-isolate.
It's expected that more states will follow suit, just as the school closings followed one another. The government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, pleaded on Sunday morning talk shows for young people to stop attending bars and restaurants.
"I think we should be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting," he said. "I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing."
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