Upon reopening after the holiday break on January 3rd, New York City public schools will expand in-school coronavirus testing, but relax quarantine rules for students in a bid to keep them in class as much as possible amid skyrocketing infection and hospitalization rates. NYC Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday that roughly 80,000 students will be tested every week across the public school system once classes resume. de Blasio said in a virtual briefing at City Hall that while only unvaccinated students were eligible for the randomized in-school surveillance tests at the start of the school year, vaccinated kids will now also be able to get them. In another policy shift, de Blasio said students who are exposed to an infected classmate will receive an at-home rapid test kit that their parents should administer as soon as they’re home. Students who are negative on the at-home test can return to school the very next day as long as they’re asymptomatic — a marked shift from the previous mandatory 10-day quarantine rule for kids exposed to an infected classmate.
de Blasio, who leaves office on Saturday, was joined for his briefing by incoming Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Hochul. “We have a lot of evidence now that tells us this is going to be the approach that works in the future,” de Blasio said, citing data from the Health Department indicating 98% of kids who have a close interaction with an infected classmate do not contract the virus. Gov. Hochul added that her administration is setting aside 2 million at-home testing kits for city schools that can be distributed to students as needed in the event of a positive case.
Adams, who’s set to be sworn in as de Blasio’s successor on Saturday, noted that data indicates children are at a comparatively low risk of catching COVID-19 in school. “Your children are safer in school, the numbers speak for themselves,” said Adams. However, he also suggested at a later press conference he may adjust the outgoing mayor’s school plan once he takes over. “We’re going to roll out our plan. It’s going to be a very clear plan,” Adams said at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
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