Nov. 29 (UPI) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that elementary schools in the city will re-open in early December, as cases throughout the United Sates continue to surge.
De Blasio said Sunday that public schools will re-open in phases with students in grades 3-k, Pre-k and K-5th grade returning in-person learning on Dec. 7, followed by students with the most complex disabilities on Dec. 10, while middle and high schools will remain closed.
“It’s less concern about the spread when it comes to younger kids,” said de Blasio.
Also Sunday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced that he and his partner, first gentleman Marlon Reis, tested positive for COVID-19, adding they are both asymptomatic and isolating in their home.
“Marlon and I are feeling well so far and are in good spirits. No person or family is immune to this virus. I urge every Coloradan to practice caution, limit public interactions, wear a mask in public, stay six feet from others and wash your hands regularly,” said Polis.
The decision comes after New York City Public Schools ended in-person instruction earlier this month after the city reached a 3% COVID-19 testing positivity rate.
“Whatever happens ahead, we want this to be the plan going forward,” de Blasio said. “We know what we didn’t know over the summer, we know what works from actual experience.”
The United States added 155,596 cases and 1,189 new deaths on Saturday, bringing the nation’s total to 13,262,224 infections and 266,164 fatalities, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
Daily cases hit a record of 205,557 on Friday, with experts expressing concern that holiday gatherings could further the spread in coming weeks.
In the face of surging cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged local leaders to “close the bars and keep the schools open.”
“Let’s try to get the kids back and let’s try to mitigate the things that maintain and just push the kind of community spread that we’re trying to avoid,” Fauci told ABC News’ This Week on Sunday. “And those are the things that you know well — the bars, the restaurants where you have capacity seating indoors without masks.”
Coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx offered similar advice during an appearance on CBS News Face the Nation, adding that mask mandates are critical to reopening schools.
“First, what we do know works is mask mandates, mask requirements in states that did those or mayors or counties that did that, we can see a really significant difference in not only cases but hospitalizations and fatalities,” said Birx. “Starting with mask mandates and re-masking requirements — absolutely key.”
Further, Birx encouraged those who traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday to get tested for COVID-19 and adopt precautions such as wearing masks while at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
“If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later,” she said. “You need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”
Birx also said she hopes the coronavirus task force will begin briefing the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris about the virus on Monday.
“What’s really critical is we’ve spent the last nine months really developing sophisticated databases that are bringing together information from across the country down to the county level,” she said. “We can see who’s being admitted, we can see who’s getting sick, we can see where this virus is moving in communities.”
Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House’s coronavirus testing czar, urged the Biden-Harris team to place faith in the current administration’s vaccine distribution plan, stating they “need to let it work.”
“Obviously we think the plan that’s there is pretty optimum,” he told CNN’s State of the Union. “There was formal meetings with Operation Warp Speed last week with the Biden transition team, I’m told that meeting went extremely well.”
Giroir added that he believes there will be “a smooth, professional transition” as nearly everyone working on Operation Warp Speed, who’s actually delivering the vaccine and controlling the logistics, ‘ll be there on Jan. 19, they’ll be there on Jan. 21.”