Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at why Mayor Eric Adams is resolute about keeping public schools open as coronavirus cases skyrocket. We’ll also get a preview of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State message, which she will deliver tomorrow.
On his first weekday in office, Mayor Eric Adams insisted that New York City’s schools would stay open despite an extraordinary spike in Omicron-driven cases of the coronavirus.
“We want to be extremely clear: the safest place for our children is a school building,” he said outside a school he visited, Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx. He dismissed remote learning as disastrous, saying it was “terrible for poorer communities” and for children living in shelters.
But the confidence that Adams sought to project — “When a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger,” he said — was not shared by parents whose sense of assuredness had turned to trepidation. There was also a clear divide between the city where almost all schools were opened with enhanced testing protocols and the surrounding area, where more school districts are moving to remote learning.
They mostly cited the rising number of cases within their communities and not specific instances. “The lives of all our students mean more to me than anything else, especially since three of them are actually mine,” Dawn Haynes, the school board president in Newark, said in a statement announcing that the district’s 65 schools would go remote for two weeks.
New York City had endured a year with low virus transmission in schools before Covid cases spiked just before winter break. The city was forced to close 11 schools and more that 400 classrooms. The surge in cases has led to the collapse of the contact tracing systems. New York City reported over 36,000 cases on Sunday, five times more than two years ago and more then half the number recorded in New York State.
Adams has endorsed the plan of former Mayor Bill de Blasio which calls for distribution of 1.5 million at-home rapid test kits to schools. On Monday, the city doubled its random school testing program to give P.C.R. Each school will test 20 percent of the consenting children weekly. However, some schools have had to reduce the testing pool because some families refused to give permission.
Adams was asked by some families and elected officials to delay the school’s opening by a few days in order to allow every child and teacher time for testing. Teachers also wondered how schools could be adequately staffed while so many teachers are sick or in quarantine due to the virus. Calling this “an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Adams said on Monday that administrators who do not normally spend time in classrooms would pitch in to cover staff shortages if necessary.
The mayor and David C. Banks, the new schools chancellor, believe that the plan for increasing testing will prevent outbreaks that could force school closures. They have sofar resisted the idea that they should require booster shots for educators and vaccines to children. “We’re not at the point of mandate,” Adams said on Monday, though he encouraged eligible New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted.
Expect temperatures in the mid-30s and wind chills close to 20. Sunny during the day, partly cloudy at night, and temperatures in the low 30s.
It is in effect until Thursday (Three Kings Day).
Gov. Hochul proposes a two-term limit on governors
Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to add New York to a list of 23 states, among them South Dakota — and take New York off a list of 14 states, among them North Dakota.
Hochul proposes a limit of two four year terms for governors and other elected officials. My colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurní writes that Hochul’s term-limits proposal would require an amendment to the state Constitution, which means it would require approval from voters and from the State Legislature. New York would be the 24th to limit governors to four-year terms, if it becomes effective. New York is currently one the 14 states that has no limits.
Hochul’s proposal comes as she runs for a first full term. It could help her position as an advocate of government reform. It could also help her separate herself from her scandal-marred predecessor former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He was halfway through his third term when last year he resigned. Hochul, who had previously been the lieutenant Governor, replaced him.
Her proposal would also prevent state elected officials, except for teachers, from receiving outside income. Cuomo was paid $5.1 million to write a memoir about the pandemic. The money was confiscated by a state ethics panel last month. But the state attorney general’s office said it could not force him to.
Hochul will use Wednesday’s speech, which is her most important speech in her political career to outline her policy agenda, beyond term limits.
She has so far avoided questions about a 2019 law that abolished cash bail for certain felonies. Republicans, who claimed that dangerous criminals had been released, made the law a campaign issue, and some Democrats were able to re-elect them last year. Hochul will have an ally in Mayor Eric Adams. Adams is a former police captain and has said that the law should be changed.
The latest news from New York
These statues could speak if they wanted to
What would two contentious historical figures — Thomas Jefferson and King George III of Britain — say about being on display steps from each other?
It is a question that could be brought up at the New-York Historical Society, once the seven-foot tall Jefferson statue is placed there in April.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The global surge. The coronavirus is spreading faster than ever at the start of 2022, but the last days of 2021 brought the encouraging news that the Omicron variant produces less severe illness than earlier waves. Therefore, governments are now focusing on expanding vaccination rather than limiting spread.
Yes, ThatJefferson statue, the one that once dominated the City Council chamber of City Hall until its removal last summer.
Would George III be unhappy that Jefferson is being placed in a prominent position? (George III is going to a gallery upstairs for “Monuments: Commemoration and Controversy,” an exhibition that opens on Jan. 28.)
Jefferson might counter that George III’s statue is too large. It was thrown to the ground by a mob in July 1776, and melted into more that 42,000 bullets. These were used for colonial soldiers. The postmaster in New York observed dryly that the redcoats “will probably have melted majesty fired at them.” A smaller version of the statue is in the exhibition.)
“In a way it’s a fortuitous coincidence that this monuments exhibition was in the planning” when the historical society arranged to take in the statue, said Wendy Nālani E. Ikemoto, the curator of the exhibition, “because for my purposes having a full-scale current example of the debate raging around monuments is the perfect lead-in” to a show about the long history of controversies involving such things.
Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal” but owned slaves. George III is coming to be viewed more favorably than he once was — not the pompous and pouty potentate portrayed in the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Ikemoto cited the British author Andrew Roberts, in “The Last King of America,” who she said has attacked “the myth which Jefferson helped create as a tyrant ‘unfit to be the ruler of a free people.’” George III abhorred slavery, she said.
“George was a historical figure who was complicated, and whose legacy is being revisited and rethought,” she said. “That’s what’s happening to Jefferson as well.”
What we’re reading
I was a subscriber to the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center Saturday afternoon for several seasons. This was many years ago. I sat next a woman older than me at every performance. She said she had been going to the opera for many decades.
We were treated to an avant-garde, atonal piece that featured singers dressed up as large, iridescent, worms who writhed across a stage. I noticed that my neighbor was falling sound asleep and was snoring silently.
The audience responded to the end of the performance with polite applause mixed in with some unpolite booing loud enough for me to wake my seatmate.
“Oh, God,” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes, “please tell me there isn’t a second act.”
— Stephen Phillips
Illustrated by Agnes Lee Send submissions hereAnd Read more about the Metropolitan Diary here.
We are glad we were able to meet. We will see you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini CrosswordAnd Spelling Bee. All our puzzles are here.
New York Today was written by Geordon Wolfner, Melissa Guerrero, and Olivia Parker. You can reach them at email@example.com.
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Source: NY Times