Students in Chicago public schools, the third largest district in the country, will start the school year in September with all-remote instruction, officials announced on Wednesday.
The district backed away from a previously announced plan to combine in-person courses with remote learning in the fall semester, as local governments across the US unveiled a spate of measures intended to rein in the spread of coronavirus.
New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced people traveling to the city could be subject to random checkpoints to monitor coronavirus cases, and six state governors announced the formation of a bipartisan coalition to speed up Covid-19 test results.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city’s decision to go completely online, instead of having the district’s 300,000 students return to the classroom two days a week, was because of a recent increase in confirmed cases in the region.
When the initial plan was announced in mid-July, officials had also cautioned it was subject to change based on feedback from families. In a statement, the school district said its survey of families showed 41% of elementary school parents and 38% of high school parents would not send their children to school buildings.
The Chicago Teachers Union also opposed the district’s proposal and had taken preliminary steps to a strike vote, arguing that it was not possible to keep everyone safe in the fall.
The CTU president, Jesse Sharkey, said that with 35 days until classes begin, the district must boost its infrastructure for virtual classes.
“Our remote learning experience must include the infrastructure, professional development, family outreach and staff support to make remote learning robust and enriching for every student,” Sharkey said. “We have a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
Checkpoints in New York City
The country’s largest school district, in New York City, has not yet announced its plan for reopening. But on Wednesday, De Blasio announced plans to stop potential coronavirus carriers from entering the city by implementing checkpoints.
In New York state, travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico with high infection rates must quarantine for two weeks. The sheriff’s office and a city public health program, Test & Trace Corps, will oversee random stops at bridges, tunnels and transportation hubs.
Dr Ted Long, the chief of the Test & Trace Corps, said 20% of the city’s new cases are people who arrived from outside.
More than 32,000 people have died in the city, which was hard-hit in the spring but has since dramatically lowered the infection and death rates while increasing testing. The state this weekend had a case positivity rate lower than 1%.
Many of the states experiencing an increase in cases are struggling to get test results returned in an effective time period, however.
To reduce the turnaround time for coronavirus testing result, a coalition of three Republican and four Democratic governors announced on Tuesday they had formed an interstate pact to address the problem. The states are Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia.
Rapid results are needed for testing to be effective at containing the spread of coronavirus, but states have warned they don’t have the resources to get results in the 24 to 48 hour period recommended by experts. Harvard researchers found that the average wait time was 4.1 days in a group of nearly 20,000 people surveyed in mid- to late July.
At the national level, coronavirus concerns have shifted plans for the two main political party’s national conventions.
Virtual nomination conferences
The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday announced Joe Biden would not be traveling to Milwaukee for his acceptance speech, as initially planned. Hours earlier, Donald Trump said he was considering giving his acceptance speech from the White House, prompting ethics concerns about laws drawing a line between government officials’ involvement in political activity.
Trump has also said he is seeking a fix to the end of expanded unemployment benefits in the US as Republicans and Democrats shown little signs of progress in negotiations for the next economic relief package.
Democrats are aiming to reach a deal by the end of this week, but they still remain far from the Republicans and the White House on specific issues.
Millions of unemployed Americans meanwhile, are in their second week of not receiving the $600 boost to weekly unemployment benefits. The federal eviction moratorium also expired two weeks ago, though a patchwork of different protections remains in place in several states and cities.
Meanwhile, state officials said Florida has surpassed 500,000 coronavirus cases as testing ramped up on Wednesday following a temporary shutdown of some sites because of Tropical Storm Isaias, which briefly became a category 1 hurricane this week.