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Mayor Adams Defends Decision To Keep Schools Open As Officials Work To Stay Open Through Omicron

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Eric Adams is defending his response to the pandemic, including having fully open schools.

This as New Yorkers seek out places for COVID testing without the extremely long wait times.

As CBS2's Dave Carlin reports, the city schools' response to COVID is Adams' earliest and biggest challenge. He spent Tuesday digging in and defending his approach.

A roll call for city public schools on Tuesday made Mayor Eric Adams proud.

"Today, zero schools closed," Adams said.

FIND TESTING SITES: Click here for New York City's testing site locator, including mobile sites and at-home appointments

He said nowhere is a child safer than in school as he pushed back on suggestions of an ugly battle between him and the teachers union, which wants remote learning.

"The governor, the mayor, the UFT president - we have been coordinating with each other, and even if there's a difference of opinion on something," Adams said.

Carlin found some parents scrambling, like Jonathan Phipps. Phipps was in a long line for COVID testing with his sons Kaden and Kyler. The kids were sent home by a school nurse Monday as a precaution.

AVOID THE LINES: Click here for NYC Health+Hospitals testing wait times

"They have to get a negative test before they can return back to school," Phipps said.

"My toes are really cold," Kyler said.

It was their second trip in less than 24 hours to the testing site with rapid antigen and standard PCRs at LaGuardia Airport.

"It was just freezing last night, so we stuck it out for about 45 minutes and then we decided we would try again in the morning," Phipps said.

Others in line were desperate for test results in order to be cleared to catch flights. Francesca Biche is from Tuscany.

"Italy requires 24 hours beforehand to have tested negative to be able to go back to our country," she said.

"When are you flying back?" Carlin asked.

"Today at five," Biche said.

Across our area, pop-ups take some of the burden off the more established sites. And with the weather so very cold, lines are smaller at some locations.

"We just want to get them tested and ourselves tested so we know that we're OK," said Woodside resident Ana Ramos. "We were trying to find a spot because the last time we took a test, we were standing in line for, like, five hours."

"What about this time?" Carlin asked.

"This time, no, it was like two seconds," Ramos said.

As more testing sites get added, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the millions of tests being sent to the city will help keep schools safe. Mayor Adams said to keep all of New York City open, keep vaccines and COVID tests coming.

"We need a steady supply, particularly during this surge," Adams said.

The mayor said a remote school option is not out of the question in the future, but he wants science not fear to drive that debate.

"COVID is a formidable opponent that pivots - pivots and shifts. I'm going to do that. Every day I sit down with my medical professionals. They give me smart advice based on facts, not fear," Adams said.

In New Jersey, though, some districts are pivoting back to remote learning, like Newark public schools, the state's largest system, for the next two weeks. Hoboken schools will be remote until Thursdsay.


However, Gov. Phil Murphy says instead of shutdowns, schools need to continue testing and requiring masks.

"This is what is necessary now to keep our schools safe," Murphy said.

This comes as the country reported more than one million positive cases in a single day for the first time ever — that's a global record.

Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina says he believes rapid antigen tests are a key tool in fighting the surge, saying PCR tests can be too sensitive.


"It looks like the rapid test is failing, but actually, it's accurate to answer the question that we're mostly interested in - which is, am I a risk to my neighbors? Do I need to isolate?" Mina said.

In New York City, Adams says many employees with "low skills" - which is how he phrased it - don't have the luxury to work remotely, and those are the people who help keep the city moving. That's another reason he's pushing to keep the city open.

John Dias contributed to this report. 

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