A school in New York City was forced to close after its first week of classes due to 19 staff members testing positive for COVID-19.
P.S. 79 in East Harlem will shut down starting Monday until September 28 due to “possible widespread exposure and transmission in the school,” according to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in a tweet Saturday.
Learning will be conducted remotely, and the school will ensure every student has a device and meals will be able to be picked up daily, Brewer said.
The cases were linked to staff orientation.
“All my efforts are focused on supporting the principal, making sure parents are notified so they don’t show up on Monday & that the students and families have access to the devices they need,” Brewer tweeted. This is an unfortunate situation & we need the city’s leadership to take responsibility.”
In an earlier Twitter post on Friday, Brewer wrote of the latest case count at the school: “This is exactly what we feared would happen—and why a remote option should have been offered to parents in the first place.”
In a statement to Newsweek, Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, said: “The health and safety of our school communities is our top priority, and we do not hesitate to intervene to stop the spread.
“We follow stringent guidance from health experts to prevent any further transmission by quarantining close contacts, closing classrooms, and, if necessary, entire buildings. Learning will continue during quarantine and we will provide the school resources and support to have a successful school year.”
Since schools opened on September 13, there have been 812 total COVID-19 cases in New York City schools—487 students and 325 staff members have tested positive for the virus, according to the NYC Department of Education. The East Harlem school is the first to be closed due to COVID-19 cases.
Teachers and staff members are required to have at least one dose of the vaccine by September 27.
Schools across the country have been forced to shut down due to a high number of students and staff members testing positive for the virus. A school district in Tennessee closed for one week at the end of August due to an increase in cases. In Los Angeles County, more than 8,000 students and 1,200 staff tested positive less than one month into the school year.
Child COVID-19 cases have grown “exponentially” since schools began to open in August, although severe illness among children remains rare, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children younger than 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination.