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Coronavirus Update: After Additional NYC School Closures, Teachers' Union Calls On City To Close All Public Schools

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The vast majority of New York City public schools remained open Friday, although three additional schools were closed because of the coronavirus.

The debate as to whether that's wise is playing out among parents picking up school kids in Lower Manhattan.

"I think it's better for everyone to be safe to be at home," said parent Arleen Pierre.

"I suggest to leave the schools open," said parent Pashko Rukaj. "So far everything is under control."

Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19 by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

Mayor Bill de Blasio is feeling the pressure to shut them down.

Overall, school attendance was down to 68% Friday, de Blasio said.

There are now at least 154 cases of coronavirus across New York City, de Blasio said. That includes 29 people in mandatory quarantine, and 1.747 in voluntary isolation.

CORONAVIRUS: CDC Latest | NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text "COVID" to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Case Tracker | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

De Blasio said his overriding goal is to keep schools, mass transit and health care system going. He says the decision to shut any one of them will impact the others, and he especially wants to protect the health care system.

"We have to protect our health care system at all costs," de Blasio said.

He said if schools were closed, kids would still be kids and find ways to run around outside, which raises its own concerns. He urged people to read the CDC's guidance for school closures.

De Blasio said he thinks it is an "illusion" to think the school system could be shut down for just a week or two amid a crisis. He said he thinks it's more likely, if schools were shut down, they would wind up shut down for the entire school year - if not calendar year.

De Blasio asked even if children managed to stay in isolation for a week, does anyone think they would remain in isolation for a month, or longer? He said the same could be said about their parents who might have to stay home to care for them.

"Everyone's concerned, and there's a lot of anxiety," de Blasio said. "My strong belief is that if the schools weren't open the children would go all over looking for things to do... you would not see a pristine quarantine."

All non-educational school activities have been cancelled, de Blasio said. He also said schools may move breakfast and lunches into some classrooms in order to help social distancing.

"A variety of steps will be taken to support everyone in the school community," de Blasio said.

The United Federation of Teachers on Friday joined some parents, school staffers and elected officials calling school closures a logical next step,

In a statement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said:

We recommend that New York City follow the example of affected jurisdictions around the region, the nation and even the world in closing our public schools.

We don't suggest this lightly. We understand the immense disruption this will create for our families. 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.

Many local area schools, religious and public, have already closed, as have schools in the entire states of Michigan, Maryland, Ohio and Kentucky.  The schools of entire countries have been closed to help contain the spread of the virus. 

We must find ways to keep our children safe, and to see that they are fed.  We must do all we can to help ensure that our students can continue to learn.  But we have reached the point where continuing to keep our classrooms open poses a greater lasting threat than the disruption that will result from school closings.

But so far the city argues against it, closing only when there's a confirmed case within the building, but as a precaution scaling back non-essential school activities.

De Blasio said he met with Mulgrew for about an hour Friday and while they differ on approach, they will be working together.

Officials have repeatedly pointed out the complexity of shutting down the public school system. They say that it will force many parents - including health care workers and first responders - to stay home. There's also the issue of children who are dependent on the school system for healthy meals.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday it also remains unclear that keeping children home will help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

City health officials said a student has tested positive on Staten Island.

A building that houses both New Dorp High School and the Hungerford school was closed for cleaning. Classes were expected to resume Monday.

Brooklyn College Academy also shut its doors after someone affiliated with Brooklyn College self-reported a positive result.

Additionally, four Brooklyn occupational centers that serve medically vulnerable students were closed since a teacher self-reported.

The phrase "self-report" means health officials have not officially confirmed the diagnosis.

Two schools that share a building in the Bronx shut down Thursday due to another self-reported case involving a student.

"We don't make this decision lightly, and we know the disruption and anxiety this means for students, faculty and parents," de Blasio said. "We are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and we will keep everyone informed as we learn more through the day."


The mayor has said he plans to keep the city's public schools open for as long as possible.

Earlier this week, Cuomo declared any school with a student who tests positive must close for at least 24 hours to assess the situation.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said Friday its Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens will also be shutting their doors from March 16-20.

"The decision to close schools was made out of an abundance of caution due to the rapidly changing situation surrounding the Coronavirus and after further consultation with representatives of city and state agencies," Superintendent of Brooklyn Schools Thomas Chadzutko, Ed. D. said in a statement Friday. "For your information, there are no confirmed cases in our schools reported to us by the New York City Department of Health."

Yesterday, the Archdiocese of New York announced it's closing all of its schools during the same dates.

As most public school kids head to classes, some adults unexpectedly head home, like waiter Nazmus Sakib, whose restaurant, steps away from a shuttered musical Wicked, closed Friday for lack of business.

"It's been slow, really slow," said waiter Nazmus Sakib.

"And now you're closed today," said CBS2's Dave Carlin.

"Closed today until March 21st," Sakib said.

"What are you going to do instead?" Carlin asked.

"Stay home and watch TV," Sakib said.

It's a change in plans for him, and for tourists. Some from Seattle who expected to see Broadway shows and go to big museums, but with those attractions closed, they improvise and they wander.

"The Brooklyn Bridge. Just those free attractions they can't really shut down," said tourist Nathalia Bartos.

They say they're finding elbow room most places they go, even lots of seats on subway trains. The crowds pop up in other places, like at an Upper West Side grocery store.

"We will let people in in groups, please be patient," one worker said.

New Yorkers lined up around the block for groceries.

"We need food and want to have enough in the fridge," a man named Whit said.

New York Waterway said it was modifying its service as of Monday to account for fewer commuters. For more information, click here.

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