East Harlem school closes after 19 COVID cases confirmed

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EAST HARLEM, NY – An East Harlem public school temporarily closed over the weekend after a dozen cases of COVID-19 were confirmed there, making it the first school to close during the new school year.

PS 79, on East 120th Street near Marcus Garvey Park, closed for 10 days from Saturday and will reopen September 28. Students will learn remotely during this time.

At least 19 cases, all on staff, have been confirmed there, according to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. All of the cases were linked to an orientation leading up to the first day of school last week, Brewer said.

Known as the Horan School, PS 79 is primarily intended for students with learning disabilities.

The school outbreak was first revealed last week by Brewer, who called on the city to add a remote option for families who do not wish to send students to school.

“This is exactly what we feared would happen – and why a remote option should have been offered to parents in the first place,” Brewer said in a Tweeter.

Under current city policies, schools will only be closed this year when there is evidence of “widespread transmission,” as determined by the Department of Health and the Department of Education.

Take-out meals can be picked up at PS 79 or other school buildings closer to families during closure.

As of Sunday evening, 137 classrooms across the city were fully or partially closed due to a coronavirus case, while PS 79 was the only building closed.

The shutdown came just days after New York City welcomed 1 million of its public school students back to the classroom for the first time since the start of the pandemic, drawing all eyes to the ability to the city to deliver on its promise to be the “gold standard” of health and safety during the 2021-22 school year.

On Monday, de Blasio announced that the city would start imposing COVID-19 tests on public schools – a step forward from the current bi-weekly policy, which had been criticized as too lax by teachers‘ unions.

Previous coverage: 1 week, 11 Harlem schools close classrooms for COVID cases


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