FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM MARСH 19, 2020 • THE QUEENS COURIER 3
City closes public schools
amid coronavirus pandemic
BY ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
New York City public schools closed on Monday,
March 16, in an eff ort to limit the spread of the
School will be suspended until aft er spring vacation,
de Blasio said during a press conference on
Sunday, March 15. He said the fi rst attempt to
reopen schools will be on Monday, April 20, but he
added that they may have to go out for the whole
“It was a very painful, diffi cult decision,” de
Blasio said. “It became clear to me as we went
through projections … the threat was growing so
intensely that we knew we had to. We’ve never seen
anything like this. Yeah, I went through ebola, but
nothing like this.”
Teachers and school administrators returned to
schools on Tuesday, March 18, through Th ursday,
March 19, to undergo training in order to implement
remote (or online) learning.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said it is
critical for parents to sign up for a New York City
Schools account in order to receive all the updates
and materials they’ll need for their kids. He added
that while New York City’s public schools are
closed on Monday, breakfast and lunch will still be
served for students who need it.
“It’s not going to be like regular school, it’s going
to be impossible for it to be,” Carranza said.
He said that the DOE wants to provide as much
fl exibility as possible for students, similar to the
summer school module. Carranza said that as they
work with teachers, details will become clear. De
Blasio added that teachers who are sick should stay
at home during the training period.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced schools in
Westchester, Nassau and Suff olk will close for two
weeks beginning Monday, March 16.
“Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to
a rate that the healthcare system can manage,
and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density,”
Cuomo said in a press release. “Closing the
schools is a good idea but you have to anticipate
and correct any unintended consequences — we
have to ensure children who rely on free school
meals continue to get them and that there’s adequate
child care, especially for healthcare workers
and fi rst responders who are parents of young children.
We will close these schools but it needs to
be done with these contingencies in mind so that
children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t
understaff ed — otherwise we cut off our nose to
spite our face.”
Mayor cancels special election
for Queens borough president
BY MAX PARROTT
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday the
cancellation of the special election for Queens borough
president scheduled for March 24, as a part
of his eff ort to combat the spread of coronavirus.
At the press conference where he announced that
New York City public schools will close until April,
he acknowledged that in a democracy, canceling
the election was not something he took lightly. Th e
mayor had previously expressed resistance to postponing
the election, saying that “it’s a very dangerous
thing to do in a democracy.”
Polling places opened Saturday, March 14, for an
early voting period leading up to the special election
to replace former Borough President Melinda
While Donovan Richards was the only candidate
to call for the postponement of the election
prior to early voting, Costa Constantinides and
Elizabeth Crowley both called to institute a borough
wide absentee ballot program, which Gov.
Cuomo then signed into law through an executive
order on Friday.
Th ree of the candidates immediately sent out
statements approving the mayor’s decision to stop
the spread of the virus.
“Today’s decision to close New York City schools
to protect our children was a smart decision, and
so was the cancellation of the March 24 special
election,” Councilman Donovan Richards said.
“Elections are an integral part of our democracy.
Th ere is no easy way to put one on hold, however
we cannot risk the health and safety of voters and
our poll workers in this moment.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides said, “Th e
health, safety and stability of Queens is most
important. While we’re grateful to everyone who
came out to vote early this weekend, we respect the
mayor’s decision to suspend the special election.”
Candidate Jim Quinn said he agreed with de
Blasio’s decision to suspend the election.
“I understand the mayor’s decision to postpone
the election and believe that it is the most prudent
course of action at this time,” he said.
Elizabeth Crowley also agreed, saying “the health
and safety of our city and citizens is paramount.”
“We must now come together to protect ourselves
and our great city. Our politics will see
another day,” she said.
Acting Borough President Sharon Lee said that
she is prepared to extend her tenure of the offi ce
as a result of the suspension, and will continue to
support the borough through the response to the
“I made a commitment to represent and serve
the people and families of Queens to the best of my
ability and for as long as necessary, and this commitment
still stands. Government must not and
will not shut down. Aggressively slowing the tide
of the spread of COVID-19 is paramount, and we
as public servants must remain calm while moving
swift ly but safely with the urgency that this situation
requires,” Lee said.
Photo via Getty Images.
The crisis in testing and our
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
I am in self-quarantine for COVID-19.
Is that because I know I’ve had an exposure to the coronavirus?
No, not for certain. And that uncertainty speaks to how crippling
the current state of this pandemic is for the way we carry on our
A co-worker of mine has experienced fi ve days of high fevers,
chills, a cough and periods of labored breathing. He’s been
exhausted but has been so uncomfortable at times that he’s been
unable to sleep.
Th ankfully, he’s feeling better today and it looks like he’s on the
But here’s something that’s a damning indictment on our healthcare
system and our government’s response: He has been unable to
get tested for COVID-19.
His doctor told him he “defi nitely could” have the coronavirus,
but said he can’t be tested at this time. Still, the doctor referred him
to an urgent care center, which in turn told him to call the New
York state coronavirus hotline. Th ere, he was told that our local
public health resources lack the capacity to give him a test given
the symptoms he described.
Th at answer was not surprising since the city health department
last night tweeted, “Testing should only be used for people who
need to be hospitalized for severe illnesses like pneumonia.”
By now, we’ve all seen the reporting on the failure of the federal
government to have emergency health crisis preparedness in place
— what with the president’s dismantling of that unit in the White
House National Security Council — and on the ham-handed rollout
of testing and the continued red tape hobbling our ability to
expand its capacity. Many other nations — some considerably less
affl uent than our own — are doing far better on this score.
Th e nation’s testing failure — as no less than Dr. Anthony
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases, termed it to Congress last week — puts the primary burden
for limiting the virus’ explosion onto each of us.
In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, Charlie
Warzel wrote compellingly about the whys and hows of that. He
pointed out that even though millions of workers were doing their
jobs remotely from home to avoid infection, many were spending
their evenings in restaurants and bars. Perhaps young and/or
healthy, they may have also felt invincible. But as Sanjat Kanjilal,
of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute’ Department of
Population Medicine, has pointed out, epidemiological “modeling
suggests that the impact of distancing among low-risk people is
more important to decrease transmission than its impact for highrisk
people who move around less.”
In other words, it’s not just sick people, old people, and others
whose health makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus
that need to avoid social contact in large groups. Everybody
has to. Because even if you’re healthy and feel fi ne, you might be
carrying the virus and spread it in large groups or might contract
it and spread it elsewhere.
Th at was the logic behind New York City and other localities
closing restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues.
But it’s not enough for us to abide by the rules government is setting.
We need to apply them in our own lives.
So for the time being, don’t bring the party home. Exercise prudence
in your social interactions. Check in on vulnerable people
in your lives. And should you become ill, be responsible about
reporting that to those you’ve recently spent time with.
Th ese guidelines provide the best route to fl attening the curve on
infections across the nation. Public health is a community eff ort.