Close NYC public schools to slow the spread of Coronavirus

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To Mayor Bill De Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza:

The signatories to this letter are administrators, teachers and teacher representatives, parents and parent representatives in public schools in New York City.

We believe that the City should immediately close as many of its schools as it can.  Here's why:

Today we learned that two schools in the Bronx have been closed following the discovery of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus.

Yesterday, CUNYs and SUNYs were closed.  The NBA suspended its season, and the NCAA decided to hold March Madness without spectators.  The Seattle public schools closed.

In the several days before yesterday, private schools across the city and country- elementary, secondary and in higher education -- closed and moved to remote learning.

We have become convinced that the City needs to take drastic action to enforce, as much as it can, a policy of social distancing -- keeping the City's residents from mingling with each other in large numbers. While most school children appear to be at almost no risk of suffering serious complications from the virus, they also appear capable of spreading it, and there are thousands of adults (many of them in high risk groups) required to keep schools open.

As documented by Tomas Pueyo (article available here: those cities and countries around the world that have taken drastic steps to slow the spread of the virus, including closing schools, have seen the rate of spread decline, and have keep the fatality rate under 1%.  Those cities and countries that have waited to take drastic steps, have seen cases explode exponentially, have seen their health care systems overwhelmed, and have seen a fatality rate above 5%.  

Closing the City's schools is decidedly a drastic step that will result in hardship for many, particularly those with children in elementary schools.  It will also, obviously, result in a disruption to learning, increasing with each day and week the schools must remain closed.

Significant as these harms are, however, they will appear minimal if the virus spreads without limit and our hospitals become overwhelmed, with every unit treating the same problem -- bilateral interstitial pneumonia brought on by Coronavirus. 

There can be creative solutions to minimize the pain - keep some locations open on a shoe-string and with younger staff to provide child-care for those without other options; maintain the food service to feed those who need the meals; ramp up on-line teaching platforms as quickly as possible - but the first priority has to be slowing the spread of this disease. 

The City needs to act now.