By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
MONDAY, Oct. 19, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Three weeks after becoming the first big urban area to reopen public schools since the pandemic began, New York City is not seeing a feared surge in cases among students and staff.
Instead, health officials are seeing a surprisingly small number of COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported.
Of 15,111 staff members and students tested randomly in the first week of its testing regimen, the city has gotten back results for 10,676. There were only 18 positives: 13 staff members and five students, the Times reported. Even better, when officials put mobile testing units at schools near the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that have had new outbreaks, only four positive cases surfaced in more than 3,300 tests conducted since the last week of September, the newspaper said.
New York City is facing fears of a second wave of the virus fueled by local spikes in Brooklyn and Queens, and official have closed more than 120 public schools as a precaution, the Times reported.
Still, the sprawling system of 1,800 public schools is a bright spot as the city tries to recover from a pandemic that has killed more than 20,000 people and severely weakened its economy.
When the city reopened its school system in September, roughly half of the city’s students opted for hybrid learning, where they are in the building some days, but not others. The approach has enabled the city to keep class sizes small, the Times reported.
“That data is encouraging,” said Paula White, executive director of Educators for Excellence, a teachers group. “It reinforces what we have heard about schools not being super spreaders.”
Things are not going as well in other parts of the country, however. Last week, at least 20 states set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen hit record hospitalization rates, according to health department data analyzed by the Washington Post.
The jump in cases and hospitalizations has been followed by a more modest rise in COVID-19 deaths, most likely due to better patient care from now-seasoned medical workers. The widespread use of powerful steroids and other treatments has also lowered mortality rates among people who are severely ill, the Post reported.
Still, experts caution that most Americans remain vulnerable to COVID infection and the virus will likely spread more easily as colder weather sends more people indoors, where they might be exposed to larger amounts of the virus in poorly ventilated spaces.
“Inevitably, we’re moving into a phase where there’s going to need to be restrictions again,” David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Post.
Second COVID vaccine trial paused
A second coronavirus vaccine trial has been paused after an unexplained illness surfaced in one of the trial’s volunteers.
Johnson & Johnson, which only began a phase 3 trial of its vaccine last month, did not offer any more details on the illness and did not