Teachers in Brooklyn are blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for failing to close public schools early enough, which the teachers claim facilitated the spread of coronavirus at one particular school.
At least five teachers from Brooklyn Technical High School teachers have called their union chapter leader, Nate Bonheimer, to tell him they had tested positive for COVID-19, the New York Post reported. Even with the information, the Brooklyn Department of Education ordered staffers at BTHS to go to work last week, claiming the building had been cleaned.
“The DOE did not close the school for any of the cases,” Bonheimer told the Post, adding that the school’s demand that staffers still go to work may have exposed more people to the coronavirus.
On March 9, the New York Education Department directed schools to close for 24 hours “in order to begin an investigation to determine the contacts that the individual may have had within the school environment.” The Post reported that Brooklyn did not follow the directive, nor did its DOE try to figure out who may have had contacts with any individual that tested positive for COVID-19, according to Bonheimer.
“They did not alert the people who needed to know the most to protect themselves, their families and everyone else they came into contact with,” he said.
The outlet reported also that one infected teacher informed all his students that he had tested positive since the city was being so secretive.
The outrage among teachers has reached a point where some are calling the coronavirus the “Carranzavirus,” and criticizing Carranza and de Blasio for failing to close public schools.
“You say equity and excellence, but every other school district closed before you did. You had these kids like petri dishes spreading this to their families,” one administrator told the Post.
One DOE employee told the Post that some believe de Blasio and Carranza squashed information about the teachers testing positive for COVID-19, which put more people at risk, saying, “The blood is on their hands.”
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DOE staffers think the two city leaders tried to cover up the cases because they wanted to keep the 1.1-million-student system running despite increasing pressure to shut it down. Finally, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about to do it, the mayor relented and closed the schools for students on March 16. They will remain shut until at least April 20, after the spring break.
An expert agreed the failure to notify health officials was dangerous.
“The chancellor was not properly following state policy,” said Aaron Carroll, a health sciences researcher and pediatrician at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Carranza sent an email – obtained by the Post – on March 10 that told school administrators not to tell city health officials about any students or staff members who tested positive for COVID-19.
“At the moment, there is no reason for any school to call [the Health Department] to report potential or confirmed cases,” Carranza wrote in the email.
He said the Health Department would get the information via test results from labs.