Health

NYC to limit classroom closures, prioritise ramped-up testing for schools

The step
shows health officials are increasing the focus on testing and trying to avoid
long isolation periods. A day earlier, the US Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with
asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10
days.

President
Joe Biden has pledged to ease a shortage of COVID-19 tests with the omicron
variant threatening to overwhelm hospitals and stifle travel plans as it spreads
across the country this holiday week.

New York’s
new policy was described by Mayor Bill de Blasio as “Stay Safe, and Stay
Open” and will take effect on Jan 3. About a million students who attend
New York City’s public schools are scheduled to return from holiday break on
Monday.

New York
City Mayor-elect Eric Adams, de Blasio and New York Governor Kathy Hochul made
the announcements at a news conference https://bit.ly/3esuXts. New York City
aims to detect more infections while mitigating disruptions as officials
described remote learning as “a failed experiment.”

New York
City’s previous policy was to quarantine unvaccinated close contacts of
infected students for 10 days.

Instead of
sending classes of unvaccinated students home to learn online when a student
tests positive for COVID-19, the students will be given rapid at-home tests. If
they are asymptomatic and test negative, they can return the day after their
first negative test.

Students
will then be given a second at-home test within seven days of their exposure,
according to the announcement.

The step
raised some concerns among parents. One tweeted that schools should be kept
remote for at least a week’s cushion following potential holiday gathering and
travel exposure.

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Others
called for mandatory testing for all children, as well as school employees.

New York
will also sharply limit the number of people it allows in Times Square for its
New Year’s Eve celebration in response to a surge of new coronavirus cases
fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Separately,
Biden on Tuesday revoked a proclamation put in place last month that imposed
travel restrictions on eight southern African nations, including South Africa,
after the emergence of the omicron variant.

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