Calls for more COVID testing before NYC students return to school

The recent surge in COVID cases is already threatening the return to in person learning next year for the over 1 million New York City students and roughly 75,000 teachers.

How this will be done safely is one of the biggest tasks facing Mayor-elect Eric Adams and other city and state officials.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is also running for Governor, emphasized that there needs to be enough testing kits available for students and staff before they return in January.

“We want to call on the city, to do what the Comptroller Brad Lander says, make sure everyone is tested when they get back,” Williams said in an interview Friday. “What we know now is that vaccination is extremely important, but that is not the only tool we have.”

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Brad Lander, who in a few days will be sworn in as the city’s next Comptroller, has been urging the city to create a plan for all students and staff to take rapid tests the weekend before school resumes.

But testing over 1 million New Yorkers in a few days is a daunting task.

“This is a huge challenge, I mean I don’t want to understate it,” Lander said. “But I believe we can do it. It is an enormous ambitious challenge and to do it will take mobilizing resources of the city, but if it keeps our students safe it’s worth doing it at that scale.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio was less sure about this ambitious testing goal, but said it was imperative schools stay open.

“I’m not sure it is (possible),” Mayor de Blasio said. “It is an honorable suggestion, but I think the most important thing is to be realistic about what will get our kids to school, get them into school safely.”

Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that the state is working to ensure there will be enough tests for students when they return to school on January 3rd.

She also urged school districts to implement a somewhat newer practice known as test to stay, which allows students who have been exposed to the virus to stay in school as long as they get frequent COVID rapid tests.

This offers relief to parents who have been overwhelmed switching from in person to remote schooling.

“It’s really not unsafe and the burden it’s putting on families, working families and children, it just feels like children are so easily dismissed right now,” Carly Maready, a parent of three explained. “They don’t have a voice of their own.”

A spokesman for incoming Mayor Eric Adams says that the Mayor-Elect met with his education team, union representatives and health officials for the past two days and will be announcing next week a strategy for students to return to school next year. 

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