Rising COVID-19 cases in a New York City elementary school have forced the school to become the second public school this academic year to switch all-remote for a period of time. The first closure led to sweeping COVID policy changes.
The 10-day physical closure of P.S. 166 in Queens starting Wednesday comes as the city ramps up efforts to get newly eligible children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated.
As of Nov. 2, P.S. 166 reported that 19 students and three staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus, totaling 34 cases this school year.
The DOE's daily COVID case map shows that nearly half of the school's 58 classrooms were in danger of closure, but the department allowed them to stay open during their investigation of the cases.
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COVID-19 at New York City Public Schools
This map shows all known cases of COVID-19 at New York City public schools. It is updated Sunday through Friday at 5:30 PM.
Building that has been closed
One or more classrooms has been closed
A member of the school community has tested positive but the school community was not exposed
"New York City schools have the gold standard for health and safety – with all school staff vaccinated, and an incredibly low positivity rate of 0.19 percent. This is the first school closure since September but we stand ready to support – every student at PS 166 has a device so they can engage in live remote learning, and we are working closely with the school community," a department spokesperson said.
As Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter later put it, "This is our second school closure. It is Nov. 10. So that means we're doing something right."
The investigation led the DOE to close down the classrooms beginning Wednesday -- the same day a vaccination drive was set to be held there -- and will reopen Nov. 22. The pop-up will be rescheduled when students return to class, officials said.
Currently, 126 classrooms out of 65,000 across the five boroughs are quarantining, the DOE added.
Since the city began inoculating younger kids last week, more than 31,000 students have gotten vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, more than 10,000 of which have taken place in schools. The first day of this week's in-school drive saw 4,500 kids dosed, while another 5,800-plus were vaccinated Tuesday. That amounts to 4.7% of all New York City kids aged 5 to 11 -- and the number is expected to keep rising as the citywide in-school effort continues.
The program takes a break Thursday, as city schools are closed for Veterans Day, and picks up Friday. Monday is the planned last day of the effort, but de Blasio has said the city will expand the in-school vaccination option if the demand is there.
Nationally, the White House said Wednesday that nearly 1 million U.S. kids in the newly eligible group had gotten vaccinated so far.