New York

New York City public schools halt in-person classes as COVID-19 crisis deepens

NEW YORK: The US death toll from COVID-19 surpassed a grim new milestone of 250,000 lives lost on Wednesday (Nov 18), as New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest, called a halt to in-classroom instruction, citing a jump in coronavirus infection rates.

The decision to shutter schools and revert exclusively to at-home learning, starting on Thursday, came as state and local officials nationwide imposed restrictions on social and economic life to tamp down a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations heading into winter.

But eight months after New York City emerged as the nation’s first major flashpoint of the epidemic – its hospitals besieged and streets virtually devoid of human activity – the epicenter of the public health crisis has shifted to the upper Midwest.

Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota, one of several states in the region dogged by the country’s highest case rates per capita, ordered all restaurants, bars, fitness centers and entertainment venues closed, and all youth sports canceled, for four weeks.

READ: US approves first COVID-19 test kit that gives results at home

More than 90 per cent of hospitals’ intensive-care unit beds are already occupied in the eastern half of the state, Walz told an evening news briefing, adding: “We are at a dangerous point in this pandemic.”

The action by New York schools, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio via Twitter, doubtless came as a relief to some teachers, many of whom have expressed fear of being placed at increased risk of exposure to the highly contagious respiratory virus.

“I could lose my job … I am stuck between bills and my son, and it’s a hard choice. Really hard,” said Felix Franco, 30, a US Postal Service employee who has been on leave recovering from COVID-19 himself sin

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