Vaccine Mandates, New Quarantine & COVID Testing Rules: NYC Parents React

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New York City public schools reopened on Monday, September 13. Despite the demands of some parents for a remote option – and a threat to keep their children home in protest – those who lobbied for in-person only carried the day.

Immediately, I heard from families:

SS: DOE’s Health screening app that parents must submit and show proof of every morning for every kid, was apparently totally overloaded and not working today.  I tried logging in via computer and phone since 7:30am today but keep getting error or redirect messages. It’s so annoying— like “how could’ve the DOE possibly anticipated this volume of users??” Obviously they knew at least approximately how many kids were showing up for school and would thus be logging into the health screening. 

EG: A whole lot of people were stalled at school entrances and forced to fill out paper forms.

MM: Line to get the kids into the schoolyard to line up was all the way around the block.

AL: So today was crazy!!!! The DOE website for the health screening kept crashing! We finally had to fill out the paper forms. And my children’s elementary school was a nightmare- with long lines. They finally got into class at 9 am.

MC: I am one of the parents against a remote option. However, after seeing the sh*t show outside of several NYC public high schools this morning, I must modify my statement. There is no way already overcrowded schools, with several schools in the building, can socially distance themselves. The scene outside of the Roosevelt Campus, PS 83/Donald Hertz School (k through 8 with two buildings!!!!) and the DeWitt Clinton campus was disorganized and chaotic. There was no administrator or staff member manning the line that didn’t allow students to be socially distant. Some students arrived at 7:30AM this morning only to get inside of their school building well after 10AM! Schools had time to prepare for this and stagger morning entry times yet it wasn’t done. Unfortunately, it looks like eating lunch in school and attending classes is going to be a super spreader event. 

EED: No bus or call came by 7:40am so I drove. My child has an IEP so this is beyond unacceptable.

By the second week, I heard:

KH: Sunday, I received an email from school to say my kid has been in close contact with a case detected in the classroom. Quarantine now begins for 10 days. Welcome to week 2. I’m so so so mad and upset and angry on so many levels. These kids sit in masks for 6 hours a day and are 3ft apart from their classmates (so they can’t make friends). They have had no recess and the only time their masks are down is when they go to the auditorium to eat lunch (and there are 2 spaces between each kid). I took my kid for a Covid test last night to be sure. She now misses her birthday and more importantly in person school because of a case (!). When will this nightmare be over for these kids and us parents?

Originally, NYC’s plan was to test a random sample of students every two weeks and to quarantine classrooms in cases of exposure as described above.

However, as of today, Monday, September 27, those rules have changed. Testing will, once again, be weekly and “If there is a positive test in a classroom, unvaccinated students will not have to quarantine if they are masked and have maintained a three-foot distance,” as per Center for Disease Control guidelines.

Also originally set to take effect today was the vaccine mandate, which required all public school teachers and staff to have received at least their first dose of the Covid vaccine. Those who have not were to have been placed on leave. 

As first reported here, and now backed up by the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, “The city is ill prepared for the impact of the vaccination mandate on staffing in schools and early childhood centers with just four days to go before it takes effect. Any staffing shortage, especially during a pandemic, is a threat to the health and safety of both students and personnel. It is dangerous and irresponsible for the city to move forward with its plan to allow schools and centers to operate so severely understaffed.”

Late last Friday night, a judge granted a temporary injunction against the mandate. As of press time, a three judge panel was scheduled to review the case this coming Wednesday.

We asked parents to comment on the latest developments:

HT: As a parent and an educator, I am extremely concerned with the decision to stop quarantining  students under 12 (who are not eligible for the COVID vaccine) who are in the same class as someone who tested positive. You indicate that a student who has a “well-fitted” mask and “is at least 3 feet away” does not need to be quarantined. However this is a BIG MISTAKE! Can anyone guarantee that a child is at least 3 feet away at all times? What about during transitions when the students are lined up? What about when students are in the bathrooms? Students are bound to move around and it is not possible to keep 3 feet distance at all times. There are also classrooms where students are not seated 3 feet apart. My child shares a table with 2 other students. I am in a school that does not sit children 3 feet away because of limitations to the space and lack of furniture (despite the admin trying to order individual desks, they have been out of stock for the past 10 months). If the student in my child’s class has a positive case of COVID, will I still be notified? If I want my child quarantined, how will that work? Who will teach my child during this time period because the teacher is still in the building teaching those who are in person? You are making parents decide between life and education! You are making life-risking decisions to my child and family!

EL: I couldn’t believe they decided not to quarantine everyone every time someone was exposed. Finally! I absolutely want my kids to be at school, without masks, ideally.

MC: My entire household is vaccinated, including our two children in public school. That said, I don’t believe in mandating the vaccine for teachers or anyone else. Getting vaccinated was OUR choice and teachers should have that right as well. Mandate masks. 

RS: I definitely agree that all teachers and other people who can be vaccinated must be so. It’s the only chance we have to keep our kids safe in school. The changes to increase testing and reduce quarantine are two steps to make school better and more productive. 

EK: Random testing needs to go away – vast majority of positive tests on asymptomatic students are from non-infectious children. 

EL: I am strongly against the vaccine mandate. It is a personal choice. Many people have already had Covid, and their natural antibodies provide way better protection than the vaccine. Why would those people need to get vaccinated? I am talking from a personal experience.

SS: This is great news – vaccinate the adults to protect the kids and stop doing quarantines that do nothing to limit spread given realities of childcare. Next remove the performative, anti-science outdoor mask requirement for kids. Then implement Test To Stay.

MAB: If they added “obviously anyone who eats breakfast/lunch in the same room with someone who tests positive removed their masks and will have to quarantine, this is more about the 11 year old, unvaccinated middle schooler who sits across the room from someone in third period who tested positive and they never removed their masks or even spoke during that forty-five minutes and now that kid doesn’t have to quarantine but the two who shared a table with the kid who tested positive do,” then it would be clear what this new rule is supposed to mean and that it doesn’t actually increase the risk. If we are ignoring that masks come off to eat 2-3 times/day and a limited number of schools are able to move meals outside, then I think we are going to end up with exponential spread and the associated consequences pretty fast. I honestly cannot tell if the mayor is trying to get credit for keeping classrooms open without actually increasing the risk to faculty, staff and students, or if he is actually just trying to keep classrooms open at all levels regardless of risk. 

Where do you stand? Add your voice to the discussion in the Comments!





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