Schools remained open during the first half of the week as the city's seven-day positivity rate inched its way toward 3%, the city's threshold to once again shut down in-person schooling.
On Wednesday, the country's largest school district announced it would shut down in-person classes once more after it hit the threshold—just barely—Wednesday morning.
"No one is happy about this decision," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. "We all, in fact, are feeling very sad about this decision because so much good work has been put on keeping schools open."
The state's and the city's updates on coronavirus infections were delayed for hours Wednesday after officials realized the city had hit the 3% mark and looked to double-check the numbers, de Blasio said.
"We've always tried to find a way to keep the schools open," he said. "We wanted to make sure it was 100 percent accurate."
The decision to shut down the school system of more than 1.1 million students is among the most drastic moves taken as the country grapples with a deadly third wave of the pandemic.
The steep rate of infection sweeping across most of the US has prompted some state and local governments to once again implement restrictions and measures to slow the spread of the virus, including temporarily shutting down businesses, mandating masks in public places, and instituting curfews on local businesses such as restaurants and bars.
This is the second time that New York City has shut down its schools because of the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 249,000 people in the US so far. The schools were first closed down back in March, while the country experienced the first wave of the pandemic.
Schools began to reopen in September, but not all students opted to return for in-person learning.
City officials have been in contact with the governor's office about how to reopen schools, de Blasio said, and that will likely mean increased testing and additional requirements that are expected to be announced in the following days, he said.
What those standards to reopen are remain unclear, but they are expected to be announced later this week, the mayor said. He added schools will also put a higher emphasis on testing once they do reopen.
"All the kids have to have a testing consent on file so we can test them whenever we need to because testing is going to become more the norm," he said.
De Blasio said the closure will remain in place throughout Thanksgiving, and officials will be reviewing if it would be possible to reopen the week afterward.
"As much as we're unhappy that this moment was reached, we are resolved to keep fighting," de Blasio said.
The closures will not just impact parents who rely on school hours while they go to work; 1 in 10 students in New York's public school system have experienced homelessness in the past year, and many of these families rely on the meals provided to students by the schools.
Briefing reporters about the state's impact from the pandemic on Thursday in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly refused to directly answer reporters' questions as to whether schools in New York City would be closed. Instead, the governor continued to point to reporters to the state's 3% seven-day infection rate that would prompt schools to close down if they reached the threshold.
When told that the school district had decided to shut down schools, Cuomo defended the state's response to the pandemic, pointing out the state's rate was the fourth-lowest rate in the country.
"The whole world is going up, the whole world — every state in the nation is going up," Cuomo said referring to infection rates. "So success becomes what? How you're doing relative to everybody else. That's what success becomes."
When asked whether the state should rethink its strategy, or if the school closures meant the state was not curbing the spread of the virus well enough, Cuomo pushed back.
"New Yorkers are doing a great job," Cuomo said. "Come to me with anything else that we are fourth in the United States of America after having the highest infection rate in the entire United States of America."