NEW YORK — The teachers’ union president on Wednesday evening said he’d back closing schools if the city’s coronavirus infection rate continues at its current pace.

“If we continue on this trend, yeah, we’re fully expecting it to happen,” United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew, in an interview with Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis, said about the possibility of schools going to all-remote learning again.

The number of coronavirus cases has steadily risen in New York for weeks, although at a higher rate upstate.

If the city’s seven-day coronavirus infection rate hits 3%, all schools will be forced to go remote.

The city is moving closer to that number. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city saw 817 new cases Tuesday and 94 people hospitalized. The seven-day average infection rate is 2.52%, which is much higher than it's been for months. The city has gone over the 550 threshold of daily new COVID-19 infections for the last 11 days.

Mulgrew said epidemiologists made it clear if coronavirus infection rates increase in communities, safety measures in schools will prove effective only temporarily before COVID-19 spreads in schools and, subsequently, neighborhood to neighborhood.

While the public schools have maintained a lower infection rate than the city overall, Mulgrew, who fought with the city for a safer return to schools, said COVID-19 could spread across multiple zip codes if schools are allowed to stay open when the seven-day positivity rate is 3% or higher.

If schools do go fully remote, many parents, educators, and students fear a repeat of the end of the previous school year, when the school system had to rush into completely online instruction and scores of students struggled to adjust to the lack of focused in-person education and attention.

In addition, many students lacked the needed technology, including connected devices and adequate internet connection, for an optimal remote learning experience — hurdles that persist for some children. Last month, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the school system still needed 77,000 devices, like iPads or laptops, for students currently learning remotely, although Carranza said that did not mean they all could not get online from their homes.

Although he says he believes students will be ready for full remote learning, Mulgrew in the interview with NY1 expressed concerns about access to devices and tech support.

“My concern really is the technology piece. I don’t want parents and students getting the run-around,” Mulgrew said. “I’m hoping the city has taken seriously what we’ve been saying, and what parents have been saying, about real technology support. You can’t keep telling us you hired an outside company to do it and they said everything’s fine. Things don’t work that way.”


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Watch the full interview above.


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