Live Covid Updates: News about Omicron, tests and cases

Credit…Carlo Allegri / Reuters

In his first major test as New York City Mayor, Eric Adams defies pressure from community associations and elected officials to do more to stop the spread of the coronavirus as cases and hospital stays rise.

Mr Adams maintains that schools must remain open and urges employers to allow their employees to return to their offices, although some union leaders have been asked to temporarily return to virtual learning and remote working.

With coronavirus cases growing rapidly in the past few days, a small but growing list of public school districts across the country – including Newark, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Cleveland – have temporarily switched to distance learning. On Monday evening, the Philadelphia School District announced that 81 of 216 schools would be removed.

In an interview on CNN Tuesday morning, Mr Adams defended his decision to reopen schools, despite the fact that about a third of parents did not send their children back to the classrooms on Monday for the start of semester. He went on to argue that students are safer in school.

“I will not let the hysteria prevent my children’s future from receiving a quality education.” Mr. Adams said on CNN.

On Tuesday, President Biden, citing the lack of evidence that Omicron affects children more severely, urged the opening of schools in the United States. Local officials should use federal funds from the stimulus package passed last year to improve ventilation systems in schools and support classrooms large enough for social distancing, he said.

“We currently have no reason to believe that Omicron is worse for children than previous variants,” said Biden. “We know that our children can be safe in school.”

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who was sworn in on Saturday shortly after the New Year’s Eve ball fell in Times Square, also called for Companies that do not allow their employees to work remotelyHe repeated a message he had broadcast on Bloomberg TV Monday: “You can’t run New York City from your home.”

Mr Adams insisted Tuesday that he was not with the teachers’ union and its president, Michael Mulgrew, who had requested a temporary return to distance learning.

“There’s no fight between Michael Mulgrew and Eric Adams,” Adams said, adding that they talk to each other three times a day and work together to keep the classrooms safe.

Mr Adams has repeatedly argued that city schools must remain open and that poor children in particular suffer from distance learning. He recently announced a plan, along with his predecessor and the governor, to distribute millions of rapid home tests to schools and to increase random surveillance tests among students.

New York City reported nearly 30,000 new cases of the virus on Monday, and the number of people hospitalized has increased over 5,000, according to country data. This level beats last winter’s high but is still below the hospitalization rate during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when 12,000 people were hospitalized on the worst days.

There have been long lines in front of the test centers as they have for weeks, and many private companies have said that their employees should continue to work from home.

Some officials have called for more aggressive measures to stop the virus from spreading, including Mark D. Levine, the new Manhattan District president who has become a leading voice in amplifying the views of health professionals.

Mr Levine released a 16-point plan on Monday that urged the city to encourage New Yorkers to avoid large gatheringsto temporarily allow city workers to work from home and to charge for vaccinated and unvaccinated New York masks in all indoor spaces.

“We must act now to slow this wave, protect our hospitals and support the sick,” he said.

His plan is supported by leaders such as Randi Weingarten, chairman of the most powerful teachers’ union in the country, and Ron T. Kim, a Queens State MP.

In September, then Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered city workers who had been working from home to return to the offices. The city has more than 300,000 workers and about 80,000 of those who work in offices and who were allowed to work remotely have had to return.

When coronavirus cases began to rise in December, the largest union representing city workers called on Mr de Blasio to put in place a remote policy for employees who can do their work from home. On Tuesday, a union spokeswoman, District Councilor 37, said she would continue to press Mr. Adams for long-distance politics.

“Our non-essential members have proven that they can do their work from home,” said spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein. “There’s no reason to keep her in the office and put her health at risk.”

Mr Adams, who is close to the leaders of District Council 37, has announced that he will be discussing the policy with the unions.

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