Gov. Cuomo left a big loophole in his lockdown of COVID-19 “hot zones” by letting children and adults who live in the closed communities attend or work in schools elsewhere, worried teachers say.
“You’re just as contagious whether you are going to school in that zone or outside that zone,” Queens teacher Rob Roszkowski told The Post.
Thousands of teens attend high schools across the city, taking mass transit. Students with disabilities are bused to District 75 schools or programs outside their neighborhoods — and often have difficulties wearing masks.
The state-designated “Red Zones” are home to 2.8% of the state population, but had 11.9% of all positive test results reported to the state last week, officials said. They include Far Rockaway, Kew Gardens, Borough Park, Gravesend, Midwood, Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay.
Cuomo has threatened to withhold state funding for any schools caught operating in the red zones, after reports that Orthodox yeshivas were still packed with students.
Jonah Bruno, a state Department of Health spokesman, confirmed that students and adults in the lockdown zones — where schools must switch to fully remote instruction — can attend or work in schools elsewhere. “DOH has not imposed any movement restrictions on people living in red zones. All people should continue following COVID prevention measures, including wearing a mask and social distancing,” he said.
Bruno refused to explain the stance or address the risks.
Asked about the policy at a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio said the city will monitor whether it causes COVID-19 to spread.
“We’re obviously going to watch carefully to see if people moving around from community to community is having an effect, but to date, we do not see that happening on a wide scale,” he said.
Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior advisor for public health, added, “It becomes a question … whether or not we need to restrict the movement of people in or out of those areas, and that presents really very important human rights considerations.”
Even at the height of the outbreak, he said, the state did not restrict movement of people within New York.
But movement from outside the state is another matter. The state currently mandates that everyone returning from 38 “restricted states” — ones with widespread COVID-19 transmission — fill out a travel form and quarantine for 14 days.
Staff working in all city DOE schools must fill out a daily health screening which asks, among other questions, whether they recently traveled to any of those states.
The survey does not ask whether they came from one of NYC’s red, orange or yellow zones.
Queens teacher Roszkowski blasted the city’s “wait-and-see” policy.
“The lives of students and staff have to matter more than the mayor’s social experiment,” he said. “As a dedicated teacher, I am appalled that the safety of my students, as well as myself and my colleagues, has continually been jeopardized by this approach.”