On Thursday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said two public schools that share the same building in the Bronx will be temporarily closed due to the coronavirus.
Both South Bronx Preparatory and the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology were closed after one of the schools’ students had a “self-confirmed positive case of COVID-19.” The city Education Department will disinfect the school, which will be closed for an initial 24-hour period. The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will also investigate the student’s contacts in order to determine who else might need to be tested for the virus. De Blasio has said that he will not order mass school closures unless the spread of the virus escalates significantly.
“We are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and we will keep everyone informed as we learn more through the day,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Together the schools serve about 1,300 students, most of which are low-income and black or Hispanic. Both of the schools’ students will be able to pick up lunch at the main entrance of the building during their regular lunch hour.
About 75% of the city’s public school students are low-income and rely on school for food, medical care and other services, which is why closing the city’s schools would pose a significant problem for its 1.1 million students. Parents would also be forced to either take off from work or find child care. And while healthy children appear to be less susceptible to contracting the virus, school closures have been proven to lessen the spread of other contagious diseases. So far, Japan, Iran, Italy, Iraq, North Korea and others have closed public schools nationwide to prevent more cases.
“If you wait for the case to occur (in your school), you still have wound up closing the school, but now you’ve missed the opportunity to have the real benefit that would have accrued had you closed the school earlier,” Nicholas Christakis, a Yale University sociologist and physician, told NPR.
On Thursday afternoon, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it would be closing all Catholic elementary schools until March 20, due to health and safety concerns. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all in-person classes at SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities would be canceled and classes would be held online instead. Columbia University, Fordham University, Hofstra University and Yeshiva University have all canceled or suspended in-person classes, as well.