Even with the omicron variant continuing to spread and administrations about to change, students who attend New York City public schools should still plan to return back to physical campus come Monday.
Outgoing mayor Bill de Blasio and schools chancellor Meisha Porter joined incoming mayor Eric Adams and schools chancellor David Banks, to make the announcement Tuesday, while outlining just how such a return can happen as New York hits its highest daily infection totals ever.
"Schools are among the safest places to be throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we're working closely with the incoming administration to keep it that way," de Blasio said, in a release. "By doubling COVID-19 testing in schools, getting our students vaccinated, and sending students, teachers and staff (members) home with at-home test kits, we can keep everyone healthy and finish out this school year strong."
The four are encouraging anyone planning to work or learn on campuses to get tested for the coronavirus before Jan. 3 through any city-run testing site. Details of such tests are available at NYC.gov/covidtest, or by calling 311.
After that, the Adams administration will start what has been dubbed the "nation's largest in-school surveillance testing program" that will test both vaccinated and unvaccinated students, as well as staff members. The random testing will require consent, but school officials are tasked with sharing how important receiving that parental approval is toward maintaining low infection rates in schools.
Following new guidelines set the by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school personnel who do test positive for COVID-19 but don't show symptoms will only have to stay away for five days. They can return on the sixth day only if they remain asymptomatic, and have not had a fever in 72 hours. They also need to wear a "high-quality" mask.
The education department will send home with every student and adult in the classroom who gets a positive test result an at-home rapid test kit, and will need to take two tests in five days. Students who were exposed are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine, and can continue attending school.
The education department says it has acquired 2.5 million at-home rapid test kits in addition to the 1 million kits provided by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Adams said, in a release. "Your kids are safer in school. Thanks to testing, vaccinations and at-home testing kits, we'll keep it that way. We're working closely with the de Blasio administration, and we'll be ready to bring students and staff (members) back to the classroom on Jan. 3. This is how we move our city forward."