Chicago says students will stay home, New York erects COVID-19 checkpoints

·3-min read
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past graffiti amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York

By Maria Caspani and Brendan O'Brien

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chicago will teach online only when school resumes in September, the mayor said on Wednesday, and New York City announced checkpoints at bridges and tunnels to enforce a quarantine on travelers from 35 states on a list of coronavirus hot spots.

The teachers' union and many parents in Chicago had objected to a plan to allow students the option of attending class in pods of 15 pupils twice a week.

Local media reported that the Chicago Teachers' Union had called for a strike vote over the issue.

"In a perfect world, students would be in classrooms more, not less. But unfortunately that is not where we find ourselves today," Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson said at a news conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago is the third-largest school district in the United States behind New York and Los Angeles, with 350,000 students.

Los Angeles has already announced that students will be kept home, while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he expects to have children attend classes part of the time.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called for schools nationwide to reopen and Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease specialist, has said that children should be sent back to class if at all possible.

“My view is the schools should open. This thing’s going away,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday. “It will go away like things go away and my view is that schools should be open.”

De Blasio told a news briefing on Wednesday the city will erect checkpoints at key entry points to ensure that travelers from 35 other U.S. states comply with New York's 14-day quarantine mandate.

UP TO $10,000 FINE

"Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine and will be reminded that it is required, not optional," de Blasio said. Fines for not observing the quarantine order could be as high as $10,000.

The measure underscores the determination in what was once the pandemic's epicenter to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Cases are down 5% nationally but soared last week in Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri and 17 other states.

On average, 1,000 people are dying each day nationwide from COVID-19. The U.S. death toll is now over 157,000, with 4.8 million known cases.(Open in an external browser for a Reuters interactive graphic)

A fifth of all new cases in New York City are from out-of-state travelers, said Dr. Ted Long, who oversees the city's contact tracing program.

Teams will be deployed at Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday, he said, to ensure travelers stop to complete a travel form.

"We're going to offer you things like free food delivery, help with medications, direct connections to doctors by the phone, or even a hotel stay," Long added.

New York City, which at one point of the pandemic reported more than 800 deaths in a single day, has seen no COVID-19 fatalities for the past three days and de Blasio said the city's infection rate had been under 3% for eight weeks.

In March, Rhode Island briefly stopped cars with New York license plates, drawing a rebuke from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Beginning in mid-July, Cuomo deployed enforcement teams to the state's airports to ensure travelers arriving from areas with major outbreaks provided contact information or risk a $2,000 fine.

Fauci told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that drugmakers will likely have tens of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine in the early part of next year, with production ramping up so that it hits a billion doses by the end of 2021.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen in New York, Brendan O'Brien in Chicago and Doina Chiacu in Washington, D.C.; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall)

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