Should NYC’s schools close before indoor dining?

The Parkside School
The Parkside School
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that parents should anticipate public schools closing as soon as Monday.

Should NYC’s schools close before indoor dining?

Probably not, according to recent scientific studies.
November 13, 2020

On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that parents should anticipate public schools closing as soon as Monday. Just one day prior, he announced that schools will be forced to close if the city’s COVID-19 infection rate hits 3% – it’s currently at 2.83%.

“If we get to a closure point, we’re then going to assess what we need to do to come back as quickly as possible," de Blasio said during a press conference on Thursday. "Our hope would be to make it a very brief period of time that our schools would be shut down.”

The closing of city schools seems inevitable at this point, as the virus continues to surge throughout the state and the rest of the country, but not everyone is convinced that that’s reason enough to shut down the schools. City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in particular, noted that it would make more sense to keep schools open and close indoor dining, office buildings and gyms instead.

This follows the same logic that has been guiding numerous countries in Europe, such asFrance, Germany and the United Kingdom, which are keeping schools open but shutting down restaurants and bars.

Data has continued to show that young children, in particular, are less susceptible to contracting the virus and that schools are not as big of a threat as they were once perceived to be. Of the 2,800 schools that have tested staff and students for COVID-19, only .17% of cases were positive. Meanwhile, indoor dining and going to bars and gyms have been shown to put people at great risk of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus.

“I think there is scientific and medical agreement that the priority has to be schools opening,” Lindsey Leininger, a public health researcher at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, told The New York Times. “Indoor dining is risky. I cannot say that more forcefully.”

Only 26% of public school students have opted to participate in the city’s hybrid learning plan that includes remote and in-person learning. While that may seem like a small percentage, that number accounts for about 283,000 students.

De Blasio has previously stated that the city would shut down indoor dining if it hit an infection rate of 2% but has now stated that the city will wait upon guidance from the state, which has the final say. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would be instating a 10p.m. curfew on indoor dining, bars and gyms, in addition to limiting gatherings at private residences to 10 people, beginning on Friday, to help curb the coronavirus surge.

"If these measures aren't sufficient to slow the spread, we will turn the valve more and part of that would be reducing the number of people in indoor dining," Cuomo said. "If that doesn't work, if numbers keep going crazy, there are some scientists who believe we should close down. I hope that doesn't happen."

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is a staff reporter at City & State.