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As NYC begins reopening, no new coronavirus deaths reported in education department

The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Preparatory in Mott Haven was closed in March after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. Greg B. Smith/THE CITY

No New York City educators died from the coronavirus in the last seven days, according to figures released by the education department.

The number of education department employees who have died has remained at 78, a toll that has fallen particularly hard on teachers aides, but which also includes administrators, central office employees, food service workers, and others.

New York City began its first phase of reopening on Monday, after about three months of hunkering down. The state will also allow summer camps to begin operating on June 29, and for school districts to serve special education students in person.

Some medical professionals fear that the city, which has been the epicenter of the virus, could see a spike in cases — just like other states that have begun to reopen for business. The continued protests against the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, could also contribute to an uptick, with thousands pouring into the streets and police rounding up demonstrators in mass arrests.

Potential dangers of reopening school buildings in September — as the virus is likely to still be active — have sparked concern about how school communities will be protected, particularly staff who are in high-risk groups.

Teachers union officials have suggested that universal testing, temperature checks at school entrances, and possibly even staggered schedules could be prerequisites for sending educators back into their classrooms.

Paraprofessionals, who are much more likely to be black or Hispanic than traditional classroom teachers and earn significantly less money, have been the hardest hit by COVID-19. They represent about 17% of the education department’s workforce, but 38% of its coronavirus-related deaths. That mirrors a stark divide across the city, as people of color have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

The tally, spanning March 16 through June 5, is based on reports from family members, officials said. (One death included in the tally was from a prior week.) As school buildings have been closed since March 23, the number of education department deaths has been rising more slowly — though the city is running regional centers for the children of essential workers and food distribution centers staffed by department employees.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said the city’s overall health data gave “hope that things are moving in the right direction.” For example, the number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 daily cases was 67 patients, which was under the target minimum of 200.

“We know that the reopening means more and more people will be close to each other,” de Blasio said. “We need to get it right.”

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