Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, city officials announce that four more schools will be closed because of swine flu. That brings the total number of shuttered schools to more than 30.
Health authorities said two schools in Brooklyn, one in Queens and one in Manhattan will be closed for up to five days starting Saturday after an unusually high number of students have experienced flu-like symptoms over a number of days.
The main goal of school closures is to protect those at highest risk of complications from flu in that particular school community – students, staff, and their close contacts who are younger than 2 or older than 65, pregnant or who have a chronic medical condition such as asthma or diabetes. Officials don't close schools expecting to stop the spread of the flu, but to minimize the impact on the most at-risk populations.
“The new H1N1 virus is here in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. “Many school children have mild flu, as they do each flu season. We are closing certain schools in an effort to slow transmission within the school community and protect those at highest risk of complications from flu.”
The four schools buildings are:
- P.S. 58 (School of Heroes, 969 students) in Maspeth, which includes P9Q (79 students), a school for students with disabilities. A total of seven students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last two school days.
- P.S. 160 (William T. Sampson, 829 students) in Borough Park, which also includes special education classes. A total of 17 students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last three school days.
- P.S./I.S. 384 (Frances E. Carter School, 697 students) in Bushwick, which includes P53 (135 students), a school for students with disabilities. A total of 16 students were documented with influenza-like illness during the last four school days.
- P.S. 138 (425 students) in East Harlem, a school for students with disabilities, which also includes P.S. 30 (376 students) and M317 (Kappa II, 199 students). A total of 14 students were documented with influenza-like illness today.
“In some instances when many children are sick, closing a school and keeping children home can reduce further infection. We continue to work alongside the Health Department in monitoring schools and closing them when the Health Department so recommends,” said Chancellor Joel Klein.
Four Queens schools that were closed because of swine flu reopened Friday -- but dozens more schools across three boroughs remain closed as health officials try to stop the spread of the virus.
Intermediate School 5 and P.S. 16 in Queens resumed classes Friday. Program 9, located inside Intermediate School 5, and Program 255, housed at P.S. 16, also reopened. The schools have been sanitized and sick children have been out to recover.
Last night, health officials said 56 people have been hospitalized in New York City because of swine flu.
Nine more schools in six buildings were temporarily closed yesterday to deal with swine flu, which has been spreading quickly in some city schools.
The schools will be closed for at least five days beginning Friday. They are: PS 499 and P993 in Flushing, PS 111 and PS 718 in Eastchester, PS 143 in Corona, PS 203 in Bayside, MS 113 and P 372 in Fort Greene and PS 73 in Maspeth.
The closures brought the total of closed schools in the area to 50 and counting across four boroughs, New Jersey and Long Island.
There have been 240 confirmed cases of the virus in New York City; most have been mild. There has been only one confirmed death linked to swine flu -- that of 55-year-old Mitchell Wiener, an assistant principal at I.S. 238 in Hollis, Queens. Wiener died on Sunday; his funeral was held this week in Flushing.
New York has 33 new cases of swine flu in the state, bringing the total confirmed to 366, health officials said.
Meanwhile, new test results show what scientists have suspected -- that people in their 60's and older have greater immunity to the new swine flu virus.
The analysis was released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. But officials there say it's not clear how safe older people are from the new infection. Their advice is that older folks should take the same precautions as their children and grandchildren.
The spreading flu isn't only affecting schools; emergency rooms are being overrun as well despite no indication from health officials that the outbreak is any more severe than it was weeks ago.
City health officials continue to assure the public that the spread of the virus is not escalating faster than anticipated.
"The best thing we can do to fight anxiety is with the facts," said Mayor Bloomberg Wednesday. "That's what we've been doing and we will continue to do."
The virus is also spreading at the Rikers Island jail, where there are five confirmed swine flu cases and five more probable cases. Seven housing units containing 280 inmates have been put under quarantine, according to The Post.