This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Bart Jones and Craig Schneider. It was written by Jones.
Some school districts on Long Island are warning residents that schools could be closed, as parts of the region are at risk of being designated a “micro-cluster” by the state due to rising levels of COVID-19 infections.
The districts of Levittown, East Meadow and Connetquot, along with the town of Riverhead, have sent messages telling residents to be ready for a possible shutdown.
“The positivity rate in recent days has been above 3% and the seven-day average for the positivity rate in the past week has been above 2.5%,”
The zones represent different levels of constraints for companies, schools, and gatherings, depending on virus spread.
And across New York City, “community proliferation” has begun again and ends with a lull in which the growth of infections was driven by clusters, according to the mayor’s senior spokesman.
State officials said they are monitoring “disturbing peaks” of COVID-19 cases on Long Island and will decide on zones.
“As the temperature cools, things are rising – as the experts predicted – and we are monitoring increases across the state,” said Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Cuomo. “We are working with Suffolk and Nassau County to monitor and tackle disturbing spikes in some communities on Long Island and increase testing and enforcement.”
He added that New York State Department of Health officials “designate cluster zones if metrics are reached. We need all New Yorkers to shake off COVID fatigue and wear masks, social distance, get tested and wash their hands.”
Long Island’s seven-day rolling average is 3.19%, according to government data released Friday.
School and government officials on Long Island have argued against school closures, saying they are not large spreaders of COVID-19 and are in fact among the safest places for children to be.
“We have had great success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 within our schools,” McDonald wrote. “Our schools are a safe place for our students and staff.”
On Thursday, all public schools in New York City were closed indefinitely by Mayor Bill de Blasio after the city reached an infection limit of 3% set by the city.
Closing of schools only as a ‘last resort’
Nassau County Director Laura Curran said she “strongly disagrees” with de Blasio’s move and will fight to keep schools open in Nassau for as long as it is safe.
“Thanks to the hard work of school administrators, school buildings have not been a major vector of infection in Nassau. Our contacts have found that the virus is primarily spread at social gatherings where little or no precautions are taken,” Curran said.
She added: “Closing schools should be the absolute last resort. Isolating children from teachers and classmates is detrimental to young people’s mental health and educational and emotional growth. Closing schools causes further economic destruction and harms disproportionately large families in lower-income communities . ”
Suffolk County Director Steve Bellone reiterated support for schools to remain open. “The county has worked with our school districts to ensure that all measures to stop the transmission of COVID-19 are in place in our schools,” he said. “As a result, to date we have not seen any significant spread of COVID-19 happen in our schools and see no reason to close schools in Suffolk County at this time. The county will do everything in its power to keep our schools open.”
Cuomo said Friday that if a region becomes a yellow zone, schools can remain open as long as they test 20% of their population within two weeks of the appointment.
In the orange and red zones, schools must close for four days, but they can be reopened if all staff and students are tested and only those who test negative return. Thereafter, 25% of the school’s population must be tested weekly.
“It’s a mandate, it’s a state law,” Cuomo said.
Lynda A. Adams, Connetquot’s school principal, wrote Thursday to residents that following an email she sent, “Suffolk County Department of Health Services has released an update to mandatory school test guidelines that would be in place if our region were to enter the ‘yellow caution zone’ after a sustained increase in COVID-19 cases. ”
She said various rules have come out and she is asking Suffolk health officials to clarify whether 20% of the entire district student population or 20% of students in each school should be tested regularly for the school to be reopened.
Sterne said microcluster designations are based on the fact that a geographic area’s seven-day average positivity rate is above a threshold for 10 consecutive days – “ie a sustained increase, with contact tracing data points to society spreading rather than isolated outbreaks. ”
He said the state is also considering the number of cases per year. 100,000 inhabitants, hospitalizations, “possible connections to collection facilities and other epidemiological factors. Zones are created based on case data and in consultation with the local health department.”
Cuomo: NY broke test record
New York State’s infection level was 2.6% in test results Thursday, including microclusters that have been tested, Cuomo said. Without the microclusters, it was 2.15%.
The level was 2.9% on Long Island and 2.4% in New York City.
Cuomo said the state broke another record for testing, with 205,466 completed Thursday. The number of newly confirmed cases was 389 in Nassau, 413 in Suffolk and 2,021 in New York City. 32 people died of coronavirus-related causes in the state on Thursday, and 2,348 were hospitalized.
Babylon Junior-Senior High School remained on full distance learning Friday because of two more positive cases of COVID-19 at the school, Superintendent Linda Rozzi said.
Rozzi said she expects the school, which stopped personal learning on Thursday, to return to personal instruction on Monday.
The additional cases bring the school’s total number to eight active cases, while quarantining more than 26 staff and “even more students” who have been tracked, she said.
The daily number of coronavirus infections reported in New York City on Friday is “worrying as hell,” de Blasio said Friday.
There were 1,255 new infections in a 24-hour period. It had been 200 or 300 as late as September, he said.
In a tweet late Friday afternoon, de Blasio’s chief spokesman Bill Neidhardt said all five districts have at least five zip codes with infection rates above 3% and 40 zip codes are above 4%.
“It’s clear now that we’re getting into community outreach in New York City,” he said.
He added that new restrictions – such as banning indoor dining, closing gyms – are likely to be introduced shortly after Thanksgiving, likely the first week of December.
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