The New York City Board of Health passed measures that loosen some of the requirements for teachers and directors in child-care settings, and in the facilities needed for a school nurse, citing a need for extra flexibility during the coming academic year.
The measures demonstrate how the city is preparing for a new phase of reopening and where there may be pitfalls. Speaking at his first Board of Health meeting, Dave A. Chokshi, the newly appointed health commissioner, said Tuesday the city’s health department is “in a series of marathons” in confronting the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Chokshi said the next set of challenges come from reopening schools, but the department is experiencing multiple, intersecting crises that also include social and economic upheaval and “racism as a public health crisis.”
The city remains “in a reasonably sound place” when it comes to Covid-19, said Dr. Chokshi. Schools fill not only the education and the social and emotional development of children, but they are also a place where children receive social services, health care and meals, he said.
“We have a multiplicity of reasons to focus on school reopening as a key priority,” he said.
In July, child-care centers were allowed to reopen with new precautions. With the new school year, many facilities will begin providing child care on remote learning days.
To facilitate the right number of staff for those facilities, the Board of Health approved a measure that temporarily eases some of the education-related requirements on who can serve as a group teacher. In addition, a new rule allows for multiple people to step into the education director role on a temporary basis.
The changes anticipate that education directors, who are on site daily, will be absent more frequently for longer periods of time for either illness, caretaking or quarantine, said Corrinne Schiff, deputy commissioner for the division of environmental health at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Additionally, for the upcoming school year, the health department will relax requirements for what can pass as a school nurse’s office. Last year, the Board of Health passed rules on the physical requirements for an office. Many schools weren’t able to meet those new requirements. Now, a nurse’s office only needs the basics including a sink, hot and cold water and a phone line.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health on Tuesday said that it would allow limited visitation at nursing homes that have been without a Covid-19 case for at least 14 days, down from the previous guidance of 28 days.
Visitors need to present a verified negative Covid-19 test result taken within the past seven days, among other requirements. The state’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, said the change, which takes effect Sept. 17, will allow visitation in 500 of the state’s 613 nursing homes.
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