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NYC Middle School Teachers Concerned COVID Cases Will Spike After In-Person Learning Resumes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City middle school students will be back in the classroom in the next couple of weeks, but some teachers say they're concerned COVID cases will go up, citing a delay in testing results and a slow vaccine rollout.

Dermott Myrie teaches seventh and eighth grade social studies at Public School 391 in the Fordham section of the Bronx.

He'll be back in the classroom when New York City middle schools reopen in two weeks.

"To go back into schools right now, it's really unsafe and it's irresponsible," Myrie told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

"It seems like rates have gone up and so I think a lot of us are wondering, why now?" seventh grade teacher Nicole Dixon, of the Lower East Side, said.

The infection rate inside NYC public schools is just 0.55%, but Myrie and many other teachers, like Lisa O'Connor, who teaches seventh grade in Washington Heights, worry the positivity rate will rise because they claim testing and contact tracing has been slow.

"Lots of delays. Sometimes four days, five days, and during that time frame, there is no mitigation. It's too far. The horse has gone through the gate," Myrie said.

"People not getting their tests back for a whole week. Then it ends up they tested positive, they exposed all these people because they don't know about it," O'Connor said.

"Sometimes there's a late test result, that's absolutely true. That's not acceptable to me," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "There'll be a priority vaccination effort during this school vacation week for our educators and staff."

O'Connor and Dixon are among educators who got vaccinated as soon as they qualified, but those who didn't worry the city won't have the supply to meet the need.

"Everybody is begging. We're crying for vaccines. Especially the in-person folks," Myrie said.

Some teachers say the solutions to classroom ventilation problems have turned into unbearable learning conditions.

"We are all bundled up. Kids are wearing gloves, and then they can't use their touch screens," O'Connor said. "It's a disaster."

Teachers say the city doesn't have enough time to address their concerns before middle schools reopen.

Some teachers saying organized action, like a walkout, is not out of the question to ensure teacher and student safety.

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