By Stephon Johnson
City Hall and Department of Education officials believe their testing protocols are operating smoothly and effectively.
Some loud critics have questioned that theory.
Two teachers, who the AmNews will call Mary and Shelly, took to social media to voice their displeasure with the city and it’s COVID testing operations.
“I’m a teacher in a NYC public middle school who just tested positive for COVID,” read Mary’s tweet. “I was vaxxed in February. No one will tell my students or their parents or my co-workers. This is not right. This is not safe. This is not sustainable.”
“Fellow @NYCSchools teacher over here,” tweeted Shelly. “We know our kids are unmasked the majority of the time and that they are all over each other. We also know that we need to be able to work closely with students to get the job done.”
Mary noted that she had to tell her co-workers herself that she had COVID.
According to DOE officials, most Situation Room cases are closed out on the same day and only a small number of cases take 24 to 48 hours to close. DOE officials also noted that the Situation Room and Test and Trace Corps ‘work hand-in-hand’ with school principals to identify close contacts for quarantine. The DOE also noted an increase in mask usage around the five boroughs.
DOE statistics show that on Oct. 19, as of 6 p.m. that day, 108 people in the school system tested positive for COVID (84 students and 24 staff members). Between Sept. 13 and Oct. 19, 5,386 in the system tested positive for COVID (3,998 students and 1,388 staff members. At the same time, 1,753 classrooms were closed (with 199 still closed) and 2,378 were on partial quarantine (340 currently). Also, 4,131 classrooms went either under partial quarantine or were completely closed (the current number is 539).
Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the DOE, told the AmNews that the city is doing what it can to limit COVID cases and that they have been successful.
“Our schools are some of the safest places to be during this pandemic because of our multi-layered approach to safety,” said Styer. “To keep our children in school, every case reported into the Situation Room is investigated by the Test and Trace Corps and we do not hesitate to quarantine close contacts in order to prevent any transmission.”
P.S. 11 in the Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood was being investigated for possible closure. When the AmNews asked the DOE about that situation, officials said that the health department determined that the school should be investigated for potential in-school transmission. The investigation concluded this week. They found no ‘widespread’ transmission and the school can remain open.
We were told that all cases and close contacts have been directed to quarantine.
DOE officials also said they test 10% of eligible students per week for COVID.
Testing per week wasn’t in the city’s original plans. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and the DOE’s initial plans had tests being administered every two weeks. The United Federation of Teachers, and others, fought against this.
“Yes, the UFT was concerned when the city said it was going with testing every two weeks, instead of the weekly process worked out last year,” said UFT Spokesperson Alison Gendar to the AmNews. “At our urging, they did agree to test every school each week. But along with that change, they changed the quarantine rules.”
During the first week of school hundreds of classrooms were shut down after a student or staff members tested positive for COVID. After that week, the mayor decided to change the rules via kowtowing to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines with students maintaining a three-foot distance from each other in the classroom.
The city initially planned on isolated unvaccinated students at home if they were in the same classroom as a COVID-positive student. Under the city’s old rules students had to quarantine at home for 10 days if they were exposed to someone who tested positive.