Schools

700+ NYC Schools to Host COVID Vaccine Sites Next Week, But No Student Mandate (Yet)

Mayor Bill de Blasio previously mandated COVID vaccines for NYC Department of Education personnel; staff must have at least one dose by Sept. 27 under that policy

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What to Know

  • New York City public schools, the nation's largest public school district, are continuing to assuage anxiety on the parts of parents, personnel and students alike amid the ongoing delta variant threat
  • There will be no remote learning option when schools reopen citywide on Monday; officials say all school buildings that open will be safe. New COVID policies have debuted that incorporate the vaccine factor
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated COVID vaccines for NYC Department of Education personnel; staff must have at least one dose by Sept. 27 under that policy

Every single New York City public school that hosts vaccination-eligible students ages 12 and up will have on-site vaccination centers when they reopen fully on Monday for in-person learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

That amounts to more than 700 school buildings across the five boroughs next week. The same process will apply two weeks later when students age 12 and up would be eligible for their second shots. Officials are aiming to make vaccinations as convenient as possible as cities and states face mounting pressure to protect unvaccinated youth and others from the ongoing threat posed by the delta variant.

De Blasio has already mandated at least one vaccine dose for every NYC Department of Education personnel member by Sept. 27. Officials say at least 72% of DOE personnel meet that standard at this point. The mayor said all childcare workers at city-contracted sites must be partially vaccinated by the same date.

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NYC unveiled the new plan on Thursday.

To date, 65% of 12- to 17-year-olds have had at least one vaccine dose, de Blasio said Wednesday. He says that's "higher" than the national average but still much lower than the numbers he and many others would like to see.

Thursday's announcement marks an expansion of de Blasio's school COVID policies, especially as they relate to vaccination access, but falls short of the new plan unveiled in Los Angeles, which mandates vaccination for eligible students.

Among other precautions, the city's DOE has unveiled a slate of new and revised COVID policies that consider both the vaccination and delta variant factors in an effort to prioritize safety while minimizing disruptions to in-person learning. Learn more about those here.

Masks will be required in New York schools statewide by Gov. Kathy Hochul's order. She has rolled out a vaccine or weekly test-out mandate for state educators and has said she is working to implement a policy more akin to New York City's.

Both she and de Blasio say New York has long focused its vaccination efforts on the most vulnerable. Now they are specifically targeting eligible youth, especially given recent research by the CDC on hospitalization rates among unvaccinated children.

Hochul said a day ago that if delta-related severe case counts continue to increase across the state and threaten to endanger the viability of in-person schooling, she may consider mandating COVID vaccinations for eligible kids as the state mandates immunizations for measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox and other diseases.

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Daily positivity rates have more or less stabilized since the latest delta-driven case surge across most New York regions though there have yet to be sustainably significant declines. Hospitalization increases seem to have plateaued as well, though total statewide admissions are still around early May levels.

Hochul called those numbers "troubling" Wednesday but said, "If we can keep them from spiking upwards, we're going to be OK." Should the situation change dramatically, which the governor noted it can do "overnight," she reserves the right to consider more dramatic measures to preserve hospital capacity across the state.

Nationally, some states are struggling far more, especially where vaccination rates are low. More than 95% of all U.S. counties are considered "high transmission" rate areas by the CDC. Florida is in the grip of its deadliest wave of the pandemic so far, while Idaho has started to ration its health care amid its ongoing COVID surge.

President Joe Biden has planned a major COVID address for Thursday in which he is expected to outline a six-pronged federal effort to boost vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is still killing thousands of Americans each week.

He is expected to detail plans to increase virus testing in schools in an effort to keep them open safely as well as announce a new vaccine requirement for all federal executive branch workers, a source familiar with the plans tells NBC News.

The action will come in the form of an executive order and will also extend to contractors that work with the U.S. government.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ahead of the president's address. "That’s what our objective is. So we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”

More than 208 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 177 million are fully vaccinated, but confirmed cases of the virus have shot up in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with on average about 1,000 Americans dying from the virus daily, according to data from the CDC.

The overwhelming majority of new severe cases are among unvaccinated people.

Copyright NBC New York
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