NYC Records Eighth Swine Flu Death

New York City has recorded its eighth death from swine flu.

The city health department said on its WebSite that the victim was over age 65 and had a separate health condition that made the
 flu more dangerous.

Health officials decline to release additional details about the death, citing patient privacy policies.

Many thousands of New Yorkers are believed to have had swine flu. City health officials say most suffered only mild symptoms.

About 375 people have been hospitalized.  

Elderly people are usually among those most at risk in a flu outbreak, but researchers say this particular strain has hit relatively few people over age 65.

Meanwhile, three public schools -- two in Brooklyn and one in Bronx -- remained closed Friday amid the swine flu outbreak.

Because of the swine flu emergency, the St. Francis Preparatory School baseball team had to play doubleheaders to make up for lost games, and students had less time than they might have liked to get ready for their prom.
But the normal end-of-term rhythms have largely returned to the Queens parochial school that was at the center of the swine flu outbreak, as well as dozens of others closed by the virus this spring.
“By the time we got back, we hit the ground running,” said Patrick McLaughlin, an assistant principal at St. Francis, which closed for five days after hundreds of students became ill in late April.
As teachers and students went back to work, one lingering question for the public schools that closed was whether they would be penalized for the lost school days.

Under state law, schools lose funding if students are in class fewer than 180 days. The penalty can be waived under certain conditions such as a natural disaster, but flu is not included.

The state Department of Education has submitted a bill to the Legislature that would allow schools closed by swine flu to apply for a waiver.
“We don't know if the legislation is going to be enacted,” department spokeswoman Jane Briggs said. “We are trying to amend the law so the commissioner does have the authority to excuse the days because of illness.”
Health officials have been saying that many thousands of New Yorkers have come down with the swine flu -- so many that they have largely stopped testing for it.

At least 780 confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in the state, although the majority of cases have been mild. Nineteen people have died in the U.S. and more than 750 have been hospitalized since the outbreak began in April.

St. Francis, a 2,700-student Roman Catholic high school, was where the virus first emerged in the region. More than 50 New York City public schools have been shuttered by the virus since early May. Attendance plummeted at other schools as worried parents kept their children home. A few schools were still closed in early June.
Public School 506 in Brooklyn reopened Wednesday after being closed for five days. Daniela Caraballo, whose son, Robert, is a second-grader there, said having him home from school was inconvenient.
“I don't think it should take five days to clean a school,” Caraballo said. “Now they have to make up all of that work.”
But Robert and his schoolmates didn't miss any big exams. The New York City public schools that closed were almost all elementary or middle schools, and the high-pressure part of their calendar was over when swine flu hit. Crunch time came in January and March when students took standardized English and math tests.
A smaller number of schools closed upstate and in New York City suburbs. On Long Island, the 4,450-student district of Deer Park closed for five days in May. Superintendent Elizabeth Marino said athletic events at the district's two high schools had to be rescheduled; she said her schools' opponents were very accommodating.
The issue of state funds is more vexing.

Some states including Texas and California have provisions for schools to apply for an illness-related waiver of the minimum-day requirement.

DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said waivers for some of the 858 Texas schools that were closed by swine flu have been granted, some are pending and some districts voluntarily extended their school year.
But in New York, Briggs said, schools won't submit an accounting of their 2008-2009 instructional days until next fall, so she won't know how many schools are under 180 days until then.
Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, said the department will not extend the year for any schools and hopes to receive a waiver.
The Deer Park district had four days of padding in its schedule, so after losing five days, it is just one day under the 180-day minimum.
Absent a waiver, the district would lose 1/180th of its state funding, about $93,000.

Marino said she has been in touch with the state Education Department and hopes for a waiver.

“I really would like an expedient answer,” she said. “Everyone has been intimating that it won't be a problem.”
Private schools like St. Francis are expected to follow the 180-day rule but are not bound by it.
St. Francis' schedule has classes up to a certain date, then a study period of several days, then finals, then statewide Regents exams.
Classes were extended to make up for the days lost to swine flu _ to May 28 for seniors and June 15 for underclassmen _ and the study period was eliminated.
“Our last day was the day right before prom, and then we had finals the next Monday,” said senior Alex Scheck.

The telescoped calendar meant that students had less time than usual to shop and primp for the prom, which was May 29 at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan.
But Scheck said things have run “pretty smoothly.”

Senior Abby Opam said students had advanced placement tests the week after school was closed “and that kind of sucked.”
But Opam thought she did “reasonably well” on the A.P. tests in calculus, physics and English literature.
Michael Derby, the senior class president, said several doubleheaders were scheduled for the baseball, softball and volleyball teams to make up for lost games. “It all worked out in the end,” he said.
Graduation for Derby and the rest of his class is Saturday in a ceremony at St. John's University.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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