New York City Becomes an “Orange Zone” for COVID, Schools Shuttered

On Nov. 18, New York City’s seven-day rolling average for positive COVID-19 cases reached exactly 3%, which is the number required to close schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio postponed his new conference five hours so they could redo the math and double check the number. Photo courtesy Sarah Blesener for The New York Times.

On Nov. 19, New York City public schools closed their doors and turned to remote-only learning after the city reached a 3% seven-day rolling average for positive COVID-19 cases.

“No one is happy about this decision, we all in-fact are feeling very sad about this decision, because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools open,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release on Nov. 18. “But we set a very clear standard and we need to stick to that standard, and I want to emphasize to parents, to educators, to staff, to kids that we intend to come back and come back as quickly as possible.”

With New York’s new cluster action initiative, a geographic area is declared an orange zone when their seven-day rolling average positivity rate is above 3% for 10 days. Once an area is declared an orange zone it must close in-person education.

According to the initiative, “Schools may reopen if they follow new guidelines that require mass testing in schools before they reopen followed by vigilant symptom and exposure screening conducted daily.”

However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated in a news conference on Nov. 18 that they would need to create a “different formula” for New York City to reopen schools because there are too many students to test. It is unclear when New York City schools will reopen.

“We have a stringent health and safety standard right now,” De Blasio said. “We’re going to have to raise that up even higher to be able to bring our schools back but that’s exactly what we intend to do. We’re going to have to focus even more on testing.”

While there are a few regions in the state — like New York City and parts of Monroe County and Erie County — that are designated orange and therefore have to close in-person education, Hudson Valley schools are not in immediate threat of closing.

According to the New York State COVID-19 dashboard, Ulster County currently has a 5% seven-day rolling average positivity rate but “is not currently in a Cluster Hot Spot Zone.” There are no areas close to Ulster County that are designated as yellow, orange or red zones.

Update 12/5/2020: It has been announced that NYC public schools will reopen on Dec. 7.

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About Rachel Muller 47 Articles
Rachel Muller is a fourth-year journalism major with an international relations minor. This is her fourth semester on The Oracle and she was previously an assistant copy editor for news. She prefers writing news articles and articles about her travels.