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District 11

Eric Dinowitz

Bedford Park, Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Norwood, Van Cortlandt Village, Wakefield, Woodlawn


NEW YORK, NY – Council Member Eric Dinowitz, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Mark Treyger, and the United Federation of Teachers held a press conference calling on the Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to have a plan in place for when students and faculty return from their break. The plan must include increased testing capacity at every school to test everyone entering the building, including vaccinated individuals, and ensure that vaccine vans can accommodate all age groups to provide first, second, or booster shots. It must also address the lack of staffing in the Situation Room and clearly communicate thresholds, guidelines, and schedules to the city at-large. 

This past weekend, New York City saw one of its highest numbers of infections at over 11,000 new cases. This is nearly triple the number of new infections this time last year. Last year, we saw cases almost double after the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, it has increased ten times more. 

The City reported on Wednesday, December 15, 2021, that positive covid cases resulted in 877 classrooms closing around the city. Positive cases among students and staff on Wednesday were at 546, more than double of what it was a month prior, which was at 220 positive cases. 

Noticing current and past trends, prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday on November 24, 2021, Council Member Dinowitz wrote a letter to Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, pressing the DOE for clarity regarding what preparations were being made in anticipation of a possible surge, while reiterating his call from the October Education Committee hearing for increased COVID-19 testing. His letter received no response. He then wrote a follow-up letter along with Council Member Levine, Chair of the Health Committee, and Council Member Treyger, Chair of the Education Committee, which was addressed to Chancellor Porter and Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi on December 7, 2021. To this date, Council Member Dinowitz has followed-up numerous times only to be met with silence. 

“Almost two years into the pandemic, there is no excuse not to be prepared when we’re introduced with new variants,” Council Member Dinowitz said. “We’ve witnessed the toll this takes on our students and our families. While classes are about to end before the holidays, we can’t afford any more disruptions to schooling next year. We’ve been through this before, and we know a surge is coming after the holidays. This requires a bold approach to lay the groundwork for an effective and immediate response. Our testing capacity must include all members of the school community, and vaccination vans must accommodate anyone who wants to receive their vaccination.” 

“We must immediately strengthen testing protocols to ensure all schools have what they need to operate safely to protect our school communities from COVID transmission. The City Administration needs additional staff for the Situation Room to ensure sufficient capacity and responsibly plan for a remote learning option. My legislation adds transparency around vaccination figures per school as well as the number of returned test consent forms per school to better understand how to best direct and allocate resources. We need to urgently address this public health crisis to protect students, families, and staff in order to save lives and combat the pandemic,” said Council Education Chair Mark Treyger.

​​Council Health Chair Mark Levine said, “With the omicron wave crashing down on NYC, vax and testing are more important than ever, especially in our schools. I am pleased to join Chair Treyger and Council Member Dinowitz in their call for expanded and consistently scheduled in-school vaccination options that are accessible to students and families. I am also joining their calls for more frequent testing of both students and staff, whether vaccinated or not vax. Finally, I urge the City to use schools as distribution points for much-needed at-home tests.”

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers said, “We know what we need to do to keep our schools safe. We need a sustained effort to vaccinate more students; we need additional testing of both staff and students; we need additional staff for testing and tracing operations; and we need clear guidelines for when a school needs to go fully remote to stop the spread of the virus. Now we need the out-going and incoming administrations to work together to make this happen.”

“With the Omicron variant on the rise, it’s absolutely crucial that students and teachers are able to receive reliable COVID testing,” said Council Member-Elect Rita Joseph. “Failing to reliably test for COVID is totally unacceptable—a lack of testing needlessly endangers our communities. The DOE and DOHMH must move swiftly to increase testing accessibility and they must communicate any developments with transparency to parents, students, teachers, and administrators.”