Five weeks ago, roughly 1 million students across New York City returned to school for in-person instruction. Despite fear of spreading the virus, case counts have remained shockingly low, according to data obtained by The New York Times

In Bushwick’s School District 32, the average weekly positivity rate among students is 0.14 percent, according to the data. That is lower than the city’s total public school weekly positivity rate of 0.25 percent and significantly lower than the city’s total daily average of 2.41 percent.

Map of Bushwick’s School District 32

Perhaps surprisingly, staff in School District 32 report a much higher weekly positivity rate (0.61 percent) than students. When combined, the total average weekly positivity rate of students and staff in the Bushwick school district is 0.21 percent, according to the data. 

In nearby School District 16, which covers much of Bed-Stuy, the average weekly positivity rate sits at 0.26 percent, and in School District 14, which covers Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the average weekly positivity rate is 0.27 percent, the data reads. The NYC school district reporting the highest overall weekly positivity rate is School District 6, which covers northwest Manhattan, at 0.50 percent. 

The city has a strong school COVID safety plan, including mandatory vaccinations for staff, mandatory face covering and improved ventilation in classrooms, among other things. 

On one hand, the numbers show that these efforts are working. However, there are questions about the in-school testing protocols, which the data is based upon.

The city’s goal is to test 10 percent of unvaccinated students in schools each week, according to information obtained by the Times. Currently, about 300 of the 1,600 schools in the city are not reaching that goal. Across the city, 302 students per 10,000 are tested on a weekly basis. In District 32, 454 per 10,000 are being tested each week. 

Roughly 550,000 of New York City’s students are listed as unvaccinated, either because they aren’t eligible for it yet or because their parents have not submitted proof, according to the Times. Only about 36 percent of these unvaccinated students are currently eligible to be tested, because parents have to sign consent forms in order for their children to be tested on a weekly basis. 

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the Times that the city’s goal of testing 10 percent of students is fine for tracking infections, but it isn’t enough to keep infections low. 

Currently, in-school testing is only being done on unvaccinated students and staff, and some experts argue that the vaccinated should also be subject to weekly tests. 

“Testing vaccinated students as part of routine surveillance still has a role given breakthrough infections among the vaccinated,” Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor in the health policy department at Harvard University, told the Times. 

Note: This article is based on data from the city’s in-school testing program. Data that also includes outside-of-school laboratory testing shows that a total of 5,507 students and staff members across New York City have tested positive for COVID-19 since September 13. 

Featured Image: Erik Kantar

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