New York City will close public schools starting this week, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, in the city’s most disruptive measure yet to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Schools in nearby Westchester County and Long Island will also be shuttered.
De Blasio told reporters on Sunday that school in the city will be closed until April 20 and possibly for the remainder of the academic year. “We will make a first attempt to restart our schools on Monday, April 20th,” he said, adding that meal services will be implemented within five days.
“I believe the facts, unfortunately, have given us no other choice,” de Blasio stated. “But there are three things that we are trying to protect. Most importantly our public health system, our hospital system, our clinics, everywhere that people go for health care, and two things that feed that system are public transit system, and, of course, our schools.”
He added that officials will have to come up with alternatives as parents often rely on schools as a child-care function and for food.
“We hope between the remote learning and the specialized sites for the children of essential workers that we can keep enough going to support our health care system, but it will not be easy,” he said.
Cuomo said that other schools will be shuttered in New York City’s suburbs.
“We will be closing schools in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Country. That’s all of downstate New York,” the governor told reporters.
The governor didn’t say when the New York City schools would close, adding it would happen “early this week.” And they must “have a plan in place in the next 24 hours for childcare for essential workers and a plan to make sure kids will continue to get the meals they need,” Cuomo said.
He explained that it’s necessary to reduce the density of people and curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the Wuhan coronavirus.
For schools in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, school closes for two weeks starting Monday, March 16, according to the governor.
Join me at City Hall for an important update on our city’s response to COVID-19. https://t.co/TOVCtB9naf
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 15, 2020
Several states have already announced school closures over the coronavirus pandemic. And cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, and Washington D.C. have done the same in recent days.
“But you have to anticipate and correct for any negative consequences,” Cuomo said during the press conference. “Especially child care needs of essential workers—focusing on health care workers, and making sure children get their meals,” he added.
There are currently 329 cases, including five deaths, in New York City, said de Blasio.