March 15, 2020 By Christian Murray
Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that public schools will be shut Monday and will not reopen until April 20 at the earliest.
The announcement was made during a City Hall press conference Sunday afternoon where he also said the Queens Borough President election will no longer take place on March 24 and he will work on plans for it to be rescheduled.
The mayor also announced that senior centers across the city will be closed.
The mayor, who was under significant pressure to close the schools, said that plans were underway for students to begin remote learning on March 23.
He said that he aims to reopen the schools on April 20 but warned that there was a real possibility that public schools will be shut down for the remainder of the school year.
“There is a real possibility that by closing our schools now, we may not have the opportunity to reopen them this school year,” he said.
The mayor was subject to heavy criticism by the United Federation of Teachers and other elected officials prior to the announcement for not closing them.
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee issued a statement early Sunday urging parents not to send their kids to school.
“I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Lee said in a statement.
The mayor said Sunday that he was taking other measures to protect the public, while noting that as of 6 p.m. there were 329 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City. There were 78 cases in Queens, 72 in Manhattan, 53 in Brooklyn, 21 in the Bronx and 16 in Staten Island.
He said he would be ordering hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries as he wants healthcare services focused on combating the virus and on medical emergencies. The mayor also said senior centers will close all activities and will only be food distribution hubs for senior citizens in need of meals.
Additionally, he said that the city will started ticketing bars and restaurants that violate the 50 percent occupancy rule. The city aims to reduce crowds at these establishments by limiting how many patrons are permitted.
The mayor’s decision to suspend the Queens Borough President race comes a day after early voting began for the March 24 race.
Costa Constantinides was quick to put out a statement following the mayor’s announcement.
“The health, safety, and stability of Queens is most important. While we’re grateful to everyone who came out to vote early this weekend, we respect the Mayor’s decision to suspend the special election,” Constantinides said.
(breaking news, story being updated)