New York City public-school students will return to their classrooms from winter break on January 3 as previously planned, but with a change: more frequent COVID-19 testing.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that every school will have double the amount of PCR testing each week once school resumes and that both vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be tested.
The mayor also unveiled a new policy on at-home COVID testing, which he’s calling “Stay Safe and Stay Open.” Under the policy, students in a classroom that reports a positive case of COVID will receive home-testing kits. They will be expected to take two at-home tests over a course of seven days, and those who are asymptomatic and test negative will be allowed to return to school. This is a significant shift from the previous protocol, which required entire classrooms to be shut down when a positive case was discovered.
“This guarantees more consistency in their education. It guarantees fewer disruptions, which parents have rightfully said have been a tremendous challenge for them,” de Blasio said.
This new testing program will be made possible, in part, by an allocation of 2 million test kits by the state government. Governor Kathy Hochul took part in the press conference, saying that schools are safer because of the city’s and state’s combined mandates on vaccination and masking.
“It is so important that we get our kids back to school as soon as this winter break is over. We all have such a strong public interest. We saw the failed experiment, despite the very best efforts of incredibly hardworking, passionate teachers, who did their very best with remote teaching, and of the parents, who were just pulling their hair out at kitchen tables trying to make sure it worked successfully,” Hochul said.
Eric Adams, who will become the city’s next mayor at the beginning of the year, also appeared at the event and emphasized that the state and city governments are on the same page when it comes to keeping New York City students in school.
“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 we have,” Adams said. “Your children are safer in school. The numbers speak for themselves. And we are united to make sure that they will continue to be safe.”