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NYC Councilman: Businesses, Not Schools, Should Close First

New York City is going through a second COVID-19 wave and cases are rising fast, but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to shut down schools shows that “priorities are totally backward,” New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the council’s health committee, said Thursday. 

“We have to act, but schools should not have been the first thing that we closed,” Levine, a Democrat, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “We should pause indoor dining, close gyms, and salons, tell New Yorkers to work at home again. None of that has been done.”

Families and teachers have gone through an “incredibly traumatic 24 hours” with the announcement that schools were to be closed, he added, but “we haven’t taken the critical public health measures we need.”

“Today, in New York City, a kid cannot learn in the classroom, but they can have a meal at indoor dining,” said Levine. 

He also called on the city to prioritize reopening schools at least for elementary students and children with special needs, as there is a “cost to online learning.”

“In fact, there are 60,000 kids in New York City that don’t have a connected device,” said Levine. “I’m not sure how this is going to work for them. I guess they’ll have paper handouts.”

Safety protocols for schools, including more testing for students, teachers, and staff, should also be improved, said Levine. 

“Let’s move quickly on this while flattening the curve, which we must do,” said Levine. “We all have to work harder on that and let’s get our priorities right and move on to businesses where there’s a real risk. That’s the action we need immediately.”

Levine said he thinks there is an economic concern around forcing small businesses to close, but the solution to that would be direct financial assistance. 

“We need the Senate to pass stimulus now in the lame-duck which has direct aid to restaurants and gyms and other businesses,” said Levine. “They’ve done it in Europe. We should do it here.”

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