Dec 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

NYC schools to reopen with huge COVID testing boost

Students line up in the morning at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on September 27, 2021 in New York City.

Students line up Sept. 27 at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The nation's largest school system will double COVID-19 PCR testing next week to allow asymptomatic students who test negative for the virus to stay in school, even if they've been in close contact with someone who tested positive, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The policy change comes as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, leading some school districts to return to remote learning.

Driving the news: The policy, dubbed "Stay Safe, and Stay Open," replaces the current policy in New York City schools of quarantining classrooms that are exposed to COVID-19, the New York Times reports.

  • "Your children are safer in school, the numbers speak for themselves," New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office on Jan. 1, said Tuesday, alongside de Blasio.
  • Under the policy, which goes into effect when students return from winter break on Jan. 3, every student in a classroom will receive an at-home rapid test if another student in that class tests positive.
  • If a student is asymptomatic and tests negative, they will be able to return to the classroom after their first negative test. Students will also receive a second at-home test seven days after their initial exposure.
  • The new testing policy will also include both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

Yes, but: Some New York schools will still close if there is evidence of widespread spread, per the Times.

The big picture: Tuesday's announcement comes less than two weeks after President Biden unveiled a "test to stay" strategy that aims to keep students in school.

  • Under the strategy, students who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual should remain in school if they test negative at least twice during the week after exposure.
  • School districts across the country are grappling with how to keep schools open amid rising cases, while some schools have shuttered their doors.
  • Students and staff in the Washington, D.C. public school system are required to test negative for COVID-19 to return to the classrooms from break next Wednesday, Axios' Cuneyt Dil reports.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced his commitment to keeping schools open despite the surge saying.
  • Meanwhile, Prince George's County School District in Maryland announced a return to virtual classes until at least Jan. 18. Other school districts, such as in Newark, New Jersey, individual schools are closing to curb rising cases.

Go deeper: Biden admin unveils "test to stay" strategy to keep kids in school

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details on D.C. public schools' testing policy.

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