11:12 GMT30 November 2020
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    Some 300,000 children in New York City will go back to learning from home, just eight weeks after schools reopened for the first time since the initial peak of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Bill de Blasio denied that teaching unions had dictated the trigger threshold of infection rates.

    All schools in New York City will be closed from Thursday onwards after the positive test rate for coronavirus topped three percent.

    NYC school chancellor Richard A. Carranza emailed principals to inform them of the closures ahead of a press conference by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    "As of this morning, November 18, the City has now reached this threshold of test positivity citywide and, as a result, the DOE will temporarily close down all public school buildings for in-person learning, Thursday, November 19,” Carranza wrote.

    ​De Blasio confirmed in a tweet that the infection rate had exceeded the three per cent threshold to trigger the school closures.

    ​New York became the first US major city to allow schools to re-open, just eight weeks ago. The closures will mean some 300,000 children will return to remote learning, creating a host of challenges, including childcare headaches for parents.

    Gyms and restaurants will stay open for now, although with capacity restrictions. De Blasio said that allowing indoor dining should be reviewed, although only New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo has the authority to ban it.

    De Blasio denied that the three percent threshold was dictated by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) trade union, claiming instead that it was the result of a "social contract" with staff. 

    The UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, insisted that the three percent threshold was scientifically sound, and that critics of the closure had previously complained when schools were opened.

    “We had a lot of criticism from people when we were opening schools,” he said. “They didn’t want them open. A lot of that came from the very same people who are yelling now that they want them open.” 

    Mulgrew urged New Yorkers to closely follow restrictions and hygiene guidelines to help get the pandemic surge under control “If we want to keep our schools open, it’s up to everyone else,” he said.

    Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all high schools closed earlier this week, and schools are also closing in Rhode Island and Illinois amid calls from teaching unions for statewide closures. In Fairfax, Virginia, plans for the youngest children and those with disabilities were reportedly delayed by officials this week.

    The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City is now 290,000, while over 24,000 have died.

    Nationwide, the total number cases has now topped 11 million, with the official death toll rapidly approaching 250,000.

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    lockdown, coronavirus, COVID-19, Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, New York, New York City, New York city
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