Over past few days, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has confirmed two cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in New York City. While we all hoped this moment would not come, it was something the City has meticulously prepared for. At this time, it is important to listen to facts and not respond to fear. Despite our first two confirmed cases, New Yorkers remain at low risk for contracting the virus.
The health and safety of all of our students continues to be our first priority. As we monitor the situation, we are enhancing certain protocols, providing additional resources, and taking several actions, including:
- Providing CDC-approved cleaning agents to every school;
- Increasing deep cleanings in schools to two times per week;
- Ensuring all 1,800 schools have adequate hygiene and cleaning materials;
- Providing all schools with facemasks for use if students exhibit symptoms and require isolation;
- Deciding that COVID-19-related absences will not impact this year’s applications to the City’s middle and high schools;
- Encouraging students and staff members to wash hands frequently;
- Issuing guidance to schools regarding international school trips, including the cancellation of all DOE-sponsored international trips to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan;
- Advising the cancellation of all study abroad programs, including programs that welcome international students to stay with host families in NYC; and
- Ensuring principals and school nurses have the resources and guidance needed to detect and report symptoms exhibited at school, and provide help for any affected individuals.
Working in close partnership with the Health Department, we will continue to update our protocols as the situation evolves, and communicate about any possible impact to parents and our school communities. We will keep all of our latest information on our main website.
There are no plans to close schools at this time. This is an extreme measure that can be disruptive to day-to-day life, and the decision to implement will only be taken at the direction of public health experts. As a reminder, it is critical that all New Yorkers continue to practice general viral infection prevention measures including:
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve;
- Wash your hands regularly;
- Avoid touching your face;
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Get your flu shot — it’s never too late; and
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick. Call your doctor and let them know your symptoms and travel history.
We are in direct and regular communication with principals to ensure they have the latest information and to answer any questions that may arise. Additionally, we remind all families that they can receive regular updates on this topic and many others by subscribing to The Morning Bell below and by signing up for an NYC Schools Account at mystudent.nyc to create an account and to update your emergency contact information.
The health and safety of our students continues to be our chief priority, and we will follow all guidance and take all appropriate measures accordingly.
Richard A. Carranza
NYC Department of Education