Eric Adams, the newly inaugurated mayor of New York City, insisted on Sunday that his administration is “doing the right thing” by keeping schools open amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge and an uptick in children being hospitalized with the virus.
Adams, a Democrat who was sworn into office on January 1, told “Face the Nation” that shutting down schools or moving back to virtual learning would be too disruptive to too many families. He also said the city has offered a variety of resources to help keep schools as safe as possible, but added that requiring negative coronavirus tests, as some cities have recently done, is not yet being considered.
“I believe we’re doing the right thing for our children, having them in the safest place, and that is in the school building,” Adams said.
Besides requiring school staff to be vaccinated and both students and staff to wear masks, the city has given out N95 masks and COVID-19 tests to schools. But those measures have not stopped staff shortages, partly caused by the Omicron variant. Student attendance is also down in New York, with about 30%, or roughly 300,000 out of 1 million students, missing class over the past week.
Adams said he would continue working with health care professionals but had no intention of shutting down schools.
“I’m troubled that we almost had a two-year loss for our children. They’re behind in math, behind in English,” he said, adding that remote learning is not ideal for children who don’t have access to high-speed internet or rely on school meals.
Adams also said he has no plans to close day care or preschool facilities.
“When you start to disrupt the stability of child care and day care and education, it has a rippling impact throughout our entire city,” he said. “Parents can’t keep their children home. They have to work.
“The economy is also part of this crisis that we are facing. And with the proper balance of creating a safe environment inside our day cares, our schools and other locations, our parents can go and do the jobs they need to do,” he said.
Adams also said hospitals are not close to being overwhelmed, even as 70% of hospital beds are currently occupied across the city. He said his health care team told him the situation is “stable.”
Some of those hospitalized patients now include a growing number of children. The rate of hospitalization for kids under 5, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine, is at a record level of more than 4 in 100,000 children — up from 2.5 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adams said the city would continue to “pivot and shift” based on how the pandemic changes.
“We must learn to live with COVID, and we have to do it a safe way,” he said, urging people to get vaccinated and boosted.
“We don’t have to feel helpless, like in the beginning of this virus in 2020,” he said. “Science and global communities came together. We now have the tools that we need. So let’s empower ourselves with the vaccination and booster shots. If we do that, we will bring down those hospital rates.”
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