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Public School 166 In Astoria To Go Fully Remote For 10 Days Following COVID-19 Outbreak

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Officials say there has been a coronavirus outbreak at a Queens elementary school.

Public School 166 Henry Gradstein in Astoria will now have to go fully remote for 10 days, CBS2's Christina Fan reported Wednesday.

Hours before the school was set to offer COVID-19 shots to its students, parents received a concerning email from the principal.

"It's alarming, it's alarming. I'm still trying to process it right now," one parent said.

"I'm surprised. I don't feel good about it. I don't feel comfortable," neighbor Meire Fodor added.


Fifth grader Malik told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis she was bummed to be back to remote learning.

"I really wanna see my friends, see my teachers," she said. "It's, like, scary. Like, I can't see my friends. We gotta do online. It's, like, hard."

Her mother, Malika Mennioui, says she was unfortunately expecting this after keeping an eye on the state's COVID-19 report card, which shows 22 students and three staff members tested positive from Nov. 3-9, bringing the total number of cases at the school this year to 37.

"We were watching the numbers going higher and higher every day," Mennioui said. "I was very concerned about the safety of our kids."

Watch Christina Fan's report --

Parents who came to pick up iPads for remote learning Wednesday overwhelmingly agreed the closure was the right decision.

"I told him that his teachers care about it, his mother cares about it, and the school is working on it and not to worry. Because children, they do worry, they get scared," parent Marisol Quinones said.

The teachers' union supported the decision, as well.

"This was the right decision. No one wants to close schools, but it was necessary in this situation to keep students and staff safe," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

It marks the second time this fall that COVID cases shut down a New York City school. Public School 79 in East Harlem closed days after the school year started after 19 cases were reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said because more people are vaccinated, the criteria for closing down a school this year is different than last year.

"I think the fact that we've been up with the schools -- September, October, November -- and it has only been a couple of times is pretty amazing and it speaks volumes to all the precautions that we have taken to create a safe environment," de Blasio said. "The standards are entirely different this year because the situation in the city is entirely different. We have a vast, vast number of New Yorkers vaccinated. We have all adults in our school communities vaccinated. And we have incredibly low level of COVID in our schools."


The latest closure comes as the city began launching pop-up COVID vaccination sites at schools for kids ages 5 to 11.

Public School 166 was supposed to be the location of a clinic Wednesday afternoon. Parents said this latest outbreak is all the more reason to sign up.

"At the beginning, yes, we were a little yes and no, but now we have to do it," Mennioui said.

"It is enough reason to get vaccinated. If one student gets infected, there is a concern among other parents. They should take a step so that it's not spread across the school community," Mohammad Houssain said. "If it is available, I would get it as soon as possible."

MORE: 'COVID-19 Vaccines + Kids Town Hall' Answers Your Questions On CBSN New York

In a town hall on CBSN New York Wednesday, doctors answered questions from parents who are still apprehensive.

"There's a lot of misinformation about what happens after you get vaccinated, and for most children in the trial, most children just had a sore arm after the vaccine," said Dr. Suzette Oyeku, with Montefiore Children's Hospital.

The Department of Education said the vaccine clinic for 166 will be rescheduled for when school reopens. Students are expected to report back on Nov. 22.

According to the DOE, in-school COVID positivity rates in the city are still very low, just .19%.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.


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