Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

No remote school in N.Y.C. New York City will no longer offer a remote schooling option in the fall, a major step toward fully reope...

New York City will no longer offer a remote schooling option in the fall, a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system and a crucial marker of the city’s recovery.

“The last year has shown us that the city’s school system can’t function well with half the students in person and half online,” said our colleague Eliza Shapiro, who covers the city’s schools. “The mayor and his team decided the only way to get back to normal was to eliminate hybrid altogether. It’s by far the simplest option, but it’s also frustrating for some parents who wanted the choice.”

The move could have implications for districts around the country, many of which have yet to announce their plans for the fall. It also undercuts predictions that some amount of online classes is here to stay.

“It’s a strong indication that we will be returning to compulsory in-person schooling for the vast majority of American kids,” said Dana Goldstein, who covers national education for The Times.

“It was already clear that most schools would offer a five-day-per-week, in-person schedule in the fall,” she continued. “The debate has moved on to determining what rights parents will have to keep their children at home if they remain fearful of the virus or simply have come to prefer remote learning.”

The answer, in New York City’s case and perhaps beyond, is that the waning pandemic will no longer enable parents to keep their children out of school buildings. Crucially, Mayor Bill de Blasio also said that the city’s teachers and school staff members, who have been eligible for a vaccine since January, would no longer be granted medical waivers to work from home.

New York’s decision follows similar announcements in New Jersey, Illinois and Miami-Dade County. The efforts will have the biggest impact for low-income students and nonwhite families, whose health has suffered disproportionately from the virus.

In New York, nonwhite families have been most likely to keep their children learning from home over the past year. The superintendent of Los Angeles, the second largest district in the country, committed to reopening schools fully, five days a week in the fall. And in San Antonio, the superintendent will greatly restrict access to remote learning next school year, in part because so many teenagers from low-income families have started working jobs incompatible with attending in-person classes.

“Behind the scenes, most education leaders really want all kids to return to classrooms,” Dana said. “But they are also hesitant to put pressure on families, especially because those who have opted out are disproportionately parents of color.”

By one estimate, three million students across the United States 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.

In much of the country, the virus situation is improving:

  • The country is now recording an average of 25,700 virus cases a day, nearly 40 percent lower than two weeks ago and the smallest number since June of last year.

  • Deaths, 560 a day on average, are also as low as they’ve been since last summer.

  • The number of positive virus tests is the lowest it has been since widespread testing began.

  • Hospitalizations have hit an 11-month low.

The reason for these improvements is clear: 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.

However, the vaccinations may also be masking a much more destructive trend. The Washington Post found that in some parts of the country, the infection rate among unvaccinated people was as high as it was in January near the pandemic’s peak.

Cases also remain relatively high in a handful of states, like Wyoming, and in some cities, like Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Miami. Testing has also slowed across the country, which could mean that cases could be undercounted.

Vaccinations also vary widely across regions. In five of the six New England states, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated. But it’s a different story in the South, where the lowest rates of vaccination in the country can be found. In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, vaccination rates are all below 40 percent.

  • In Pakistan, which has limited vaccine supplies and reams of red tape, the wealthy are buying doses.

  • China has not delivered on its promises to vaccinate African countries, Quartz reports.

  • In the U.S., some teenagers with antivaccination parents are helping one another get inoculated, NBC reports.

  • The C.D.C. is looking into reports of a heart problem in a small number of young Covid vaccine recipients.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

  • The Times spoke with a single mother in New York City who supported herself and her four children on $100 a week through the pandemic.

  • In the latest sign of Covid’s decline in the U.S., stores are now awash in hand sanitizer, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The pandemic made TikTok the hottest food website around.

I was hospitalized with Covid — as numerous people were — for 10 days. I was 23 years old, I was in great health with no underlying conditions, and I had just finished playing volleyball for four years in college. I was in peak health. I stayed home, I didn’t see my family, and I didn’t even see my twin sister for months because I wanted to be cautious of the virus. And then I got Covid. One of my lungs collapsed. My doctors never figured out why I got hit with it so bad. Needless to say, I’ve gotten both of my vaccine doses now! However, it pains me to still see and hear so many people who think this virus was so inconsequential. Because to me, it was the most painful and frightening time of my life.

— Jaryn Wacker, Dallas

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Newsrust - US Top News
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