New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – Queens teachers on Friday the city’s Test and Trace operation failed to react fast enough to a staffer’s positive COVID-19 test — and they’re refusing to enter their school building until they feel safe.
Teachers at Intermediate School 230 in Jackson Heights said a staffer at the school informed union and school officials Thursday that she’d tested positive for coronavirus, and union officials relayed the information to staff that same day.
But teachers at the middle school didn’t get any notice from city officials until Friday morning, when school administrators sent an email alerting them of a “potential COVID-19 case” in the building, according to a copy reviewed by the Daily News.
“We are handling this situation with the utmost seriousness, working in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC Health) to confirm a positive test result,” the letter said.
An investigation from the city’s Test and Trace corps to determine who was in close contact with the staffer would begin after officials confirmed the positive COVID-19 result, according to the letter.
In the meantime, staffers were expected to show up at their building Friday for professional development unless they felt sick.
Staffers at the Queens middle school decided Friday morning they didn’t feel safe entering the building.
“We were outside saying the different things the city failed to do with us,” said Lysette Latorre, a special education teacher at the school. “Our union let us know we had the option to be in the yard if we felt unsafe in the building.”
Teachers ticked off a litany of concerns about the city’s reopening plan, Latorre said. But most immediately, staff members were worried that the rapid-response Test and Trace operation that city officials promised didn’t seem to be acting as rapidly as expected.
Latorre said as of Friday morning no one she knew of at the school had been contacted by Test and Trace investigators.
The Education Department’s reopening plan mandates that Test and Trace investigators begin looking into a self-reported positive COVID-19 case within three hours of the initial report.
“We saw the procedures supposedly put in place to keep us safe not actually keeping us safe,” Latorre said. “We were promised it would be different this time around … and it hit close to home for us because we already lost a staff member” to the virus in March, she said.
Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said early Friday afternoon “as soon as we were made aware of a potential case we notified staff while working to get confirmation. Since last night, this case has been confirmed, an investigation completed, and multiple individuals will be quarantining. We are sending an update to staff shortly.”
- Top Feature Photo: Teachers work in the schoolyard of IS 230 in Jackson Heights Friday in protest of city’s response to a positive COVID-19 case in the building – Photo by UFT