Embattled Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City’s public schools could reopen “in the next few weeks” after coming under withering criticism for closing them Thursday based on a broad citywide coronavirus metric that is still lower than most other metro areas.
“I hope to be back in the next few weeks,” de Blasio said of reopening the city’s schools to hybrid, split-week learning on CBS’ “This Morning.”
De Blasio defended his decision to close the schools and switch to 100-percent remote learning when the COVID-19 infection rate in the city hit 3 percent — an agreement earlier negotiated with the teachers’ union.
The mayor said there are ongoing negotiations with Gov. Cuomo and state health officials on establishing new safety protocols — which will likely include additional COVID-19 testing of students and staff at public schools — to pave the way for school reopenings.
De Blasio said he expects the revised criteria to be released in the next few days.
The mayor played defense during the TV interview when questioned that the 3 percent infection threshold set to close schools appeared to be too strict — exceeding guidelines set by the World Health Organization and other health experts.
“We were the epicenter of the crisis. Everyone knows that,” de Blasio said.
“We needed to show parents and staff they would be safe, so we set a very stringent standard,” he said of the 3 percent infection threshold.
“The benefit is keeping people alive, keeping people safe. We have to keep faith with people.”
De Blasio said unlike other large urban school districts, he pushed to re-open the largest school system in the country in September.
He even said it’s one instance where he agreed with President Trump, who pushed local officials to re-open their schools.
The mayor also parried questions about criticism that the schools are closed while restaurants and gyms — considered more risky spreaders of COVID-19 — are open.
De Blasio said further restrictions are “coming very soon” to restaurants and gyms because the city will soon hit the state threshold to land in the Orange Zone ordering a pause on indoor activity.
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