City councilmen alarmed over DOE testing protocols
BY ALIYA SCHNEIDER
City councilmen Eric Dinowitz,
Mark Treyger and
Mark Levine criticized New
York City school’s COVID-19
testing and vaccination efforts
Monday, warning of rising
But the Department of Education
(DOE) and the city’s
health commissioner claim
schools are among the safest
places to be in the city.
The councilmen argued
there should be weekly testing
for all students and staff in the
Every DOE school in NYC
randomly tests 10% of its unvaccinated
students who have
submitted consent forms for
testing, not including pre-K
and kindergarten students.
Staff can also participate in the
testing program, DOE spokesman
Nathaniel Styer said. In
total, there are 1,033,669 K-12
students in DOE schools, as of
“I’m not interested in the
spin that they’re giving us
at City Hall,” said Treyger, a
Brooklyn Democrat and City
Council Education Committee
chairman. “We do not have an
adequate testing program for
students and staff in the New
York City school system right
Treyger said just 35% of unvaccinated
consent forms, as of October.
DOE will soon be required
to regularly share how many
students opted into the testing
program online, along
with attendance, vaccination
rates, positive cases, class closures
and quarantine data on
a school-specifi c basis starting
Dec. 26, and demographic data
starting Jan. 10. The requirements
come from two bills
Treyger brought to the City
Council that will run through
Even if city schools don’t
implement testing for all, a program
where students opt-out
of testing would be better than
the current opt-in program,
said Levine, a Manhattan Democrat
and chairman of the City
Council Health Committee. He
said schools should also provide
free at-home rapid tests to
DOE said its schools have
mask mandates, physical distancing
rules, ventilation, a
staff vaccine mandate and
“easily available” vaccines.
New Yorkers over 60:
By the time
you meet me,
it’s too late.
I’m Rampage. I’m a Coronavirus.
Your lungs look beautiful today.
Give the vaccine another thought.
Talk to a doctor.
BRONX TIMES REPORTER, D 20 EC. 24-30, 2021 BTR
“Our schools are safe because
of our multi-layered approach
to safety, which keeps
our positivity rate low and our
schools safely open,” Styer told
the Bronx Times.
DOE hosts pop-up vaccination
sites at its schools, where
students aged 5-11 can get inoculated.
But Levine said the sites
are inconsistent and infrequent.
Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat
and former teacher, said he has
received complaints about the
school sites only offering shots
for younger children, leaving
older siblings and parents accompanying
them without the
DOE did not answer the
Bronx Times as to why there is
an age restriction for its clinics.
As of Tuesday, 35% of NYC
children ages 5-12 and 82% of
ages 13-17 have received at least
one vaccine dose, according to
the city health department.
Dinowitz claimed city
schools don’t have a plan to handle
an anticipated increase in
cases after winter break. He said
DOE and the city health department
have ignored his repeated
questioning on the matter.
According to DOE, in anticipation
of the winter, the city increased
the number of workers
in the Situation Room — which
tracks positive cases in schools
— from 275 to more than 500. But
Janella Hinds, United Federation
of Teachers vice president
for academic high schools, said
Monday that the operation needs
As of Tuesday, 34 city classrooms
were closed due to infections
— with students learning
remotely — a decrease from
53 on Monday. The number of
classes in partial quarantine
was nearly cut in half from Monday
to Tuesday, from 662-336.
Three schools remained closed
Last year, COVID-19 cases
were higher after the holidays
than they had been in seven
months, according to Dinowitz.
On Friday, Dec. 17, 799 classrooms
were remote because of
infections. A few days earlier, on
Dec. 15, 877 classes were closed
and there were 546 positive cases
among students and teachers —
more than double the 220 cases a
month earlier — the councilman
As of Tuesday, 531 students
and staff members tested positive
for the virus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on
Monday the weekly test results
in schools are “extraordinarily
consistent and show very low
levels of COVID.”
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city
health department commissioner,
said Monday the omicron
variant is spreading rapidly,
but the positivity rate of
1.18% from school tests is low,
although higher than it was
in previous weeks. He added
that 0.94% of classrooms were
closed from the virus while
hundreds of thousands of students
were learning in person.
Three NYC councilmen are criticizing
the city’s COVID-19 testing and
vaccination efforts in city schools.
Photo courtesy Getty