(AP) – New York City reopened classrooms to many of its youngest students Monday in what has become a frustrating, stop-and-start process in many school systems around the U.S. because of the alarming surge in the coronavirus.
The nation’s largest school district, with 1 million students, had shut down in-person learning just two weeks ago but decided to bring back preschoolers and elementary school children after parents pushed for it and the mayor concluded it was safe to do so with beefed-up testing.
In contrast, school systems in Detroit, Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis in recent weeks abandoned in-person classes or dropped plans to bring students back because of soaring infections.
The retreat in some places and the push forward in others are happening as the virus comes back with a vengeance across much of the U.S., with deaths per day averaging over 2,200 — about the same level seen during the very deadliest stretch of the outbreak, last spring in the New York City area.
New cases are averaging close to 200,000 a day, the highest level on record, and the number of Americans now in the hospital has reached all-time highs at over 100,000.
The virus is blamed for more than 280,000 deaths and over 14.8 million confirmed infections in the U.S, with the crisis widely expected to worsen in the coming weeks because of Americans’ disregard of warnings to stay home and avoid others over Thanksgiving.
Health officials say the virus does not appear to be spreading rapidly in classrooms themselves, perhaps because children may be less likely to spread or contract the virus. Instead, many cases among youngsters and educators have been traced to activities outside school.
Still, the infections have alarmed parents and educators, and the illnesses and quarantines among teachers and other employees have left some schools short of adult supervision.
At the same time, parents and others have complained that children are not getting a good education at home in front of a computer. And the switch to remote learning has caused hardship for many families by forcing parents to watch over their children instead of going to work.