It may have been prudent to close schools at the outset of the pandemic, when little was known about COVID, but it soon proved terribly unwise. Now, with Omicron seeming to have peaked — in New York and elsewhere — the absurdity of pushing school closures is clearer than ever. City officials need to hold the line.
New data from the city’s Health Department show new positive test cases down to about 33,000 a day; last Friday it was 90,132. It shows how Mayor Eric Adams was absolutely right to insist that schools remain open.
Yes, Omicron-hysteria caused attendance (among both teachers and staff) to drop, complicating school plans. But the city has worked through it, fortunately for kids. And COVID cases among students and faculty don’t appear to be a significant health threat.
Alas, schools Chancellor David Banks is signaling that a remote-learning option is now under consideration, due to “political pressure.” Sorry, but that’s no excuse. Remote-learning has proved near useless.
Consider: A new CDC study out of California says the Omicron variant is an astonishing 91 percent less likely to kill those who get infected than the Delta strain. Two other CDC studies, involving schools in California and Illinois, suggest that test-to-stay policies, when combined with other COVID-19 safety measures, are effective in controlling the bug’s transmission.
Indeed, because Omicron is proving so much less lethal, the state health department is moving to adopt a new approach that involves “more self-management” when someone is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive for it. Flexibility is key as virus wanes.
Scientists have been saying since at least the summer of 2020 that the harm to kids of closing schools far outweighs any health benefit. Data from around the world soon showed that school buildings were not the source of coronavirus infection spread.
Which is why Adams was right to insist that the safest and best place for kids “is in a school building.”
Plenty of other school rules will need tailoring, too — starting for example with blanket masking rules — as the city, and world, move beyond the pandemic.
For the sake of the kids, pray Adams and Banks stand firm.