Schools located in recently established red or orange COVID cluster zones in Brooklyn and Queens might have to wait until the end of the week before they can reopen, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.
On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in red and orange zones could reopen if they abide by a set of testing protocols for all returning students and staffers. Schools in the two state-designated zones have been shut down for weeks as officials try to knock down positive coronavirus cases in neighborhoods experiencing upticks in the virus.
Students and staffers must test negative for the virus before setting foot back in a school. Once a school reopens, administrators must randomly test 25% of all students and staff every week and isolate those that test positive.
On Monday, de Blasio said that the city is waiting on upcoming changes to Brooklyn and Queens cluster zone designations before making any plans on how to handle school reopenings. Zone changes are expected to come from the state later this week, he added.
Restrictions have mostly been lifted in Queens now that all of the borough’s red and orange zones have reached low enough positivity rates to become yellow zones. Private and parochial schools in red and orange zones are allowed to reopen if they follow the state’s testing guidelines. But public schools in Brooklyn’s red zone which includes the neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood are still subject to restrictions.
In addition, 21 out of the city’s 1,600 public schools have closed for a two-week period due to multiple cases of the virus.
“The first question is what is going to happen with the red zones in Brooklyn,” de Blasio said. “We are watching the numbers very carefully, the state is going to make that decision but by the numbers, I think it’s fair to say that you could well see some changes to those red zones by the course of this week.”
The COVID positivity rate in the Brooklyn red zone was 5.07% on Sunday, Nov. 1, according to state data released Sunday. City Hall reported that the number of new cases of the virus across the five boroughs based on a seven-day average was 593, well above the city’s threshold of 550 for the third consecutive day in a row.
City officials reported that the number of New Yorkers testing positive for the virus reached 2.08% and that the city’s overall positivity rate passed on a seven-day average is 1.81%. Officials also said on Monday that 80 people were admitted to a hospital with suspected COVID-19.
“We are assessing the rules, we are assessing that timeline and then we are going to make a decision in the next couple of days,” de Blasio added.