Officials in other school districts moved forward with preparations to reopen, including in hard-hit New York City, where one in every three COVID-19 testing in the last week tested positive for the virus, according to city data provided on Monday.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 18% of tests in the United States are positive.
Despite the spreading epidemic, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who took office over the weekend, has vowed to keep the nation’s largest school system open.
A month ago, the city’s positive rate was less than 3%, and mounting infections have crippled the subway system, forced Broadway performances to cancel, and pushed businesses to postpone office returns.
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“We want to make very clear: the safest place for our children is in a school building,” Adams said during a visit to a Bronx elementary school. According to a representative for the city’s education department, only one public school, P.S. 58 in Brooklyn, was closed on Monday owing to a lack of staff.
The rapid expansion of Omicron has generated a growing sense of anarchy in the first few days of 2022. According to Reuters, the number of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in the last seven days, reaching a record average of 418,000 each day.
This week, cities such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit either introduced online instruction or cancelled school entirely for tens of thousands of pupils, citing staff shortages as well as Omicron concerns.
In New Jersey, which has witnessed some of the highest case rates in recent weeks, most urban school districts, including Newark, the state’s largest city, have established virtual courses to begin the new school year.
Anna Beale Smith, a mother of two in Atlanta, said she supports the city’s choice to transition to remote learning this week. She was, however, disappointed that the district only publicised its plans on Saturday, keeping some parents in the dark.
“I’ve been incredibly disappointed and annoyed by the lack of communication and clear planning,” Smith, 41, a healthcare worker, said.
According to Burbio, a website that analyses school disruptions, there have been over 2,750 school closures nationwide this week.
‘A LOT OF COVID OUT THERE’
The Omicron version appears to be significantly more contagious than previous generations, although evidence suggests it may be less virulent than the Delta strain, which ravaged hospitals last year.
According to Reuters, the number of hospitalised COVID patients increased by 40% in the last week, reaching 72% of the previous peak in January 2021. COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been relatively stable at 1,300 per day on average.
Nonetheless, the sheer number of cases has unnerved health experts, who are already concerned about the burden on hospital systems in several states. Maryland, Ohio, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. all have COVID-19 hospitalisation rates that are at or near record levels.
Staffing shortages and a snowstorm sweeping across the eastern United States exacerbated travel problems, with more than 4,400 flights cancelled globally on Monday, including roughly 3,000 in the United States, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
Several companies, notably several big banks in the United States, have encouraged employees to work from home during the first few weeks of the year.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington said that numerous museums would close or have limited hours for at least 12 days beginning Wednesday owing to “exceptional staff shortages.”
Testing is being used by some school districts to try to avoid more delays. Before arriving to class on Wednesday, all employees and 51,000 public school pupils in Washington, D.C., must upload a negative test result to the district’s website.
Similarly, California has vowed to deliver free home-test kits to all of its 6 million K-12 public school children.
“There’s a lot of COVID around… “It’s going to be a rough start,” said Michelle Smith McDonald, communications director for the Alameda County Office of Education.
The full impact of the Omicron spike on the country’s school districts may not be known until next week, as parents and administrators attempt to apply new healthcare guidelines.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved a third dose of the Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters aged 12 to 15, as well as shortened the period for booster eligibility to five months from six months for those who had the Pfizer doses.
Before the winter break, the Boston school district delivered 55,000 examinations to students. Schools are still set to open on Tuesday, despite the fact that Superintendent of Schools Brenda Cassellius warned reporters on Monday that she expects Omicron-related personnel shortages.