New York City will no longer have a remote schooling option come fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a television appearance on Monday, a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system.
This school year, most of the city’s roughly one million students — about 600,000 — stayed at home for classes. When the new school year starts on Sept. 13, all students and staff will be back in school buildings full-time, Mr. de Blasio said.
New York is one of the first big cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the coming school year. But widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts may have been premature. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall, after similar announcements by leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
New York City’s decision will make it much easier to restore the school system to a prepandemic state, since students and teachers will no longer be split between homes and school buildings.
But the mayor’s announcement will no doubt alarm some parents who are concerned about sending their children back into school buildings, even as the pandemic ebbs in the United States. Recent interviews with city parents have shown that while many families are looking forward to resuming normal schooling, some are hesitant about returning to classrooms.
Nonwhite families, whose health has suffered disproportionately from the virus, have been most likely to keep their children learning from home over the past year.
New York, like districts across the country, has struggled to make remote learning successful. Online classes have been frustrating for many students, and even disastrous for some, including children with disabilities.
By one estimate, three million students across the United States, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began. A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are low-income Black, Latino and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote.
Mr. de Blasio, who has been criticized for not doing more to improve the quality of online education, has said that remote learning is inherently inferior.
It has also been extraordinarily complex for the city to run two parallel school systems, one in person and one online, with many students switching between the two every few days. So many students and teachers operating from home made it nearly impossible for some schools to offer normal schedules.
For the past few months, Mr. de Blasio said he expected the city to keep some kind of remote learning option for the fall. But he and his aides changed their minds in recent weeks, officials said, as virus rates plummeted throughout the city and as children 12 and older became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
The mayor is expected to announce more details about the city’s school reopening plan at a news conference later on Monday.
For the first time since June of last year, there are fewer than 30,000 new daily coronavirus cases in the United States, and deaths are as low as they’ve been since last summer. In much of the country, the virus outlook is improving.
Nearly 50 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, and though the pace has slowed, the share is still growing by about two percentage points per week.
“I think by June, we’re probably going to be at one infection per 100,000 people per day, which is a very low level,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” The U.S. rate is now eight cases per 100,000, down from 22 during the most recent peak, when new cases averaged about 71,000 on April 14.
The share of coronavirus tests coming back positive has also fallen to below 3 percent for the first time since widespread testing began, and the number of hospitalized patients has fallen to the lowest point in 11 months, Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute noted this week.
The United States is reporting about 25,700 coronavirus cases daily, a 39 percent decrease from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. Deaths are down 14 percent over the same period, to an average of 578 per day.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. But the U.S. vaccination story varies widely across regions, with New England surging ahead of the national average and much of the South lagging significantly.
In five of the six New England states, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a different story in the South, where Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have the country’s lowest rates of residents who have received at least one shot. The rates in those states are all below 40 percent, with Mississippi, at 33 percent, at the bottom of the list.
The virus remains dangerous in communities with low vaccination rates, and getting vaccines into these communities is crucial in continuing to curb the spread. As the virus continues to mutate, vaccines may need to be updated or boosters may need to be added.
Since the C.D.C. issued guidance that said vaccinated people could forgo masks in most situations indoors and outside, states have followed suit.
But cases remain relatively high in a handful of states, including Wyoming, which has reported a 21 percent increase in new daily cases from two weeks ago.
And some cities, like Colorado Springs and Grand Rapids, Mich., are continuing to report high case counts. In Miami, cases have decreased over the past week, but the share of coronavirus tests coming back positive is relatively high, at about 8 percent.
Testing has fallen around the country, fueling concern that cases could be undercounted in places with high positivity rates, like Miami, if people who don’t have symptoms aren’t getting diagnosed.
Although health experts who spoke with The New York Times said that they were optimistic, they cautioned that the virus won’t be eradicated in the United States but would likely instead become a manageable threat, like influenza.
And the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more time that the virus has to spread, mutate and possibly change enough to evade vaccines.
“My big concern is that there is going to be a variant that’s going to outsmart the vaccine,” said Dr. Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University
in New Orleans. “Then we’ll have a new problem. We’ll have to revaccinate.”
James Gorman contributed reporting.
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