New York Daily News

Two-case rule that shuts schools on way out: Blaz

- BY MICHAEL ELSEN-ROONEY DAILY NEWS EDUCATION REPORTER

The city will scrap the controvers­ial “two-case” rule that temporaril­y shutters school buildings when two or more COVID-19 cases are reported within the same week — but haven’t yet decided what guidelines will come in its place, Mayor de Blasio announced Monday.

“We’ve come to the conclusion it’s time for a change,” Hizzoner said. “We will be replacing the two-case rule, and in the coming days we will be announcing a replacemen­t rule.”

The two-case rule closes school buildings for an initial 24 hours if cases from different classrooms were reported and keeps them shut for 10 days if disease detectives can’t find a link between the cases.

The directive has come under increasing fire from parents, politician­s and health experts in recent months as overly restrictiv­e.

The rule, combined with rising coronaviru­s community spread during the winter, resulted in hundreds of school closures each week, throwing parents’ and teachers’ schedules into last-minute chaos and underminin­g stability for kids.

De Blasio promised Monday the new rule will result in shuttering fewer schools. But he offered no details on how schools would make decisions about whether to temporaril­y shut down because of multiple COVID-19 cases.

“We’re going to work with the unions that represent all school employees on the new rule,” he said.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has been staunchly opposed to changing the two-case rule, arguing that it is among the safety measures that have helped prevent outbreaks in schools.

Mulgrew said Monday “a proclamati­on is not a plan. The city can’t change the two-case rule without Albany’s approval.” Union officials argue that because the rule was included in the school reopening plan city officials submitted to the state for approval last summer, the city needs state approval to change it.

The state Health Department didn’t immediatel­y respond to a question about whether it needs to sign off on the proposed change..

A recent study led by city health officials of COVID-19 rates in city schools last fall found extremely low rates of transmissi­on in schools, with about 0.5% of the roughly 36,000 students and staff who quarantine­d after a possible in-school exposure ultimately testing positive for the virus.

De Blasio also said Monday that he will give parents an extra two days to decide whether they want to switch their kids from remote to in-person classes given the impending change.

The deadline to opt into in-person classes will move from Wednesday to Friday, officials said.

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