Nurses on Reopening New York Schools: “A Clear and Present Danger”

New York Schools
New York nurses warn that restarting in-person schooling could spark a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Photo credit Shutterstock licensed.

NEW YORK – Nurses are warning that reopening New York public schools for in-person classes risks spreading COVID-19 among students, their families and school staff.

The state has approved bringing students back to school this fall, although recent reports show young people are significant carriers of the novel coronavirus and can spread it to adults, who are much more vulnerable to the disease.

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said they are concerned that the supply of personal protective equipment is inadequate, and that schools haven’t taken other important steps to ensure safe reopening.

“There are issues of transportation that I don’t think have been worked out, the isolation or the need for shields,” said Sheridan-Gonzalez. “How are people to eat? What would they do if they have a person who becomes positive?”

The nurses association called on state and local officials to postpone in-person classes and to make the investments that would make classroom instruction safe.

Sheridan-Gonzalez said the rapid spread of COVID early in the pandemic showed that planning and preparation for a return to in-person classes needs the active participation of teachers, school administrators and parents.

“One of the many errors that took place in the hospital situation was that the direct caregivers were not involved in the planning,” said Sheridan-Gonzalez, “and certainly were not given accurate information about what the preparation was.”

She emphasized that additional revenue also is needed to facilitate at-home learning for all students.

Sheridan-Gonzalez pointed out the revenue would be available – if New York lawmakers pass legislation to tax the types of income that benefit the state’s wealthiest residents.

“There are about five or six separate taxes that could generate billions of dollars of revenue for the State of New York,” said Sheridan-Gonzalez, “to save hospitals from closing, to provide support for families who are paying rent or paying mortgages, create jobs.”

She said she also wants Congress to pass the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which she said would help working-class New Yorkers and mitigate state and local budget shortfalls.

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