STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New York City’s ongoing policy to shutter schools in the event of two or more unrelated coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is now being questioned by medical experts in light of new research, according to a Chalkbeat report.
In recent months, New Yorkers have grown increasingly critical of the city’s current school closure model, which requires school buildings to close for 10 days if there are two or more confirmed coronavirus cases in the school, regardless of if those cases are linked.
“I think it deserves a real thorough second look,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Chalkbeat. “I’m not so sure it’s needed.”
The report references a study published earlier this week in the journal Pediatrics that found that, between October and December, only 0.5% of the over 36,000 people known to have been exposed to someone with the virus within a New York City public school went on to test positive themself.
Results from the study were in line with prior reports that showed that school buildings pose a low risk of viral transmission, and that adults are more likely to contract and spread the virus than children, with approximately 60% of the over 2,200 people infected in school buildings being staff members.
“While there are limitations to the study, transmission seemed to primarily be among adults, which is consistent with our knowledge that younger children may be at lower risk of transmission [of COVID-19] and reinforces the importance of vaccinating front-line workers, such as teachers and educators,” Dr. Amanda Castel, professor of epidemiology at the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University, told Chalkbeat.
A potential change to the current closure policy would be a welcome sight for many New York City families who want to see their kids in the classroom.
Since September, there have been over 1,800 full school closures and more than 10,500 classroom closures as a result of coronavirus cases within school buildings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that news regarding the closure policy could be released “in the coming days,” but representatives from the city’s teacher union appear hesitant to alter the guidelines put in place to protect their workers.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done in terms of this virus,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said Wednesday. “We listened to medical experts, and right now we know that why we don’t have spread inside of schools is everything in our plan that was designed by independent medical experts.”