Adams touts decline in COVID cases, still favors in-person classes over remote

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At his first COVID briefing in City Hall’s Blue Room, Mayor Adams reported on Tuesday that 16 million doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered in New York City and that the number of COVID cases is beginning to drop.

Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi stressed that while cases are on the decline, the city is far from leveling out when it comes to COVID, though.

“Our seven-day average of daily new cases is under 20,000. That’s less than half the peak of nearly 43,000 average new cases a day earlier in January. Similarly, we are starting to see a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations, from a total of about 6,500 patients hospitalized citywide on Jan. 11 to about 5,800 as of Sunday,” he said. “Now, let me be clear: these numbers are still high, meaning community transmission remains widespread.”

Adams continued to emphasize his preference that city schoolchildren continue to take classes in-person, but Schools Chancellor David Banks noted that the Education Department is still in the process of “exploring” remote options given high rates of absenteeism, much of it due to COVID.

Banks said last week that negotiations between the Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers over a temporary remote option began Thursday. But so far, a deal has not yet been worked out.

“We have not announced a remote-learning option. ... We are exploring the possibilities of the expansion of a remote-learning option,” Banks said Tuesday. “To turn around and do a remote-learning option is not an easy thing to do. … It requires the reprogramming of school schedules [and] teachers who would be dedicated to teaching just the students who would be learning remotely. It is a big undertaking, even to be doing it for a short period of time.”

The city’s top educator noted that before Adams became mayor, there was a policy already in place allowing students who tested positive for the coronavirus to take some of their lessons from home — that’s still in play — and Banks said it’s been expanded. But he added that the emphasis has been on bringing more kids back for in-school learning.

“Right before the New Year, the attendance was 63%,” Banks said of in-person learning. “Right after the New Year, this administration began, it bumped up to 65%, and it has been steadily increasing each day ... but families have been concerned.

“The message we have been promoting over and over again, which is based on the science: the safest place to be is in school,” he added. “That is a message that we will continue to let every one of our teachers and our students and our families know.”