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Saturday, March 28, 2020

NYC Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza's Response To The Deadly Coronavirus: Deny, Hide Infected Employees, Parents, Students

The New York City public school community is fed up. Mayor Bill De Blasio refused to close schools until it was way past the appropriate time, and now the NYC Department of Education is doing what they do best: deny accountability for anything and promote secrecy on the depth of their corruption.

Sue Edelman, a friend of mine for many years, has done a wonderful job in exposing the DOE and the Mayor. See the latest NY POST articles below. Parents, teachers, administrators, employees of the Department in a variety of positions, and  people in non-DOE agencies throughout the City, a number of whom I’ve spoken to, are highly disgusted — and so am I.

Let's hope for a turnaround soon, and a removal of these two men with criminal charges, such as theft of service, fraud, whatever.

My opinion.

Betsy Combier,
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza
Bronx school told teachers to hide coronavirus case: ‘Staff can be fired’
by Susan Edelman, NY POST, March 28, 2020

Grace Dodge campus in Crotona

After learning that a teacher in their Bronx school building was sick with the coronavirus, faculty members were told they could be terminated for warning students to stay away, The Post has learned.

“Staff can get fired for telling kids not to come to school,” a supervisor advised, according to a report of a March 15 teleconference with worried teachers at the Grace Dodge campus in Crotona, which houses three schools.
“Very few students will be in tomorrow. It’s not worth risking your job to lower the number,” the supervisor said.
Later that day, Mayor Bill de Blasio finally announced the city would close schools for students, but require all teachers come in for three days of training on remote instruction.
The report, obtained by The Post, raises troubling questions about whether City Hall and the Department of Education failed to fully safeguard staff and students, and tried to limit information released to the public.
A spokeswoman for Anastasia Coleman, the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, confirmed Friday there is an “open investigation” of the DOE’s response to COVID-19 cases.
The SCI received a letter from Queens Councilman Robert Holden calling for a probe after Brooklyn principal Dezann Romain, 36, died Monday of complications from the virus.
Holden also cited a Post report that the DOE kept Brooklyn Technical HS open for 350 staffers while five ailing teachers tested positive.
“I believe this conduct by the Chancellor to be extremely negligent and irresponsible,” Holden states.
The Bronx report reveals that the DOE delayed closing schools when teachers reported their COVID-19 test results, saying they had to wait until the Health Department ordered it.
“The policy is, if there is no case on DOH record, then it doesn’t exist,” the report says. “If there’s no record, then it is Business as Usual. Therefore, we are open tomorrow.”
That meant the three schools on Crotona Avenue opened their doors for teachers March 17 to 19, and for students to pick up laptops.
In the March 15 teleconference, teachers learned the “city has gotten increasingly tight” about informing school communities about COVID-19 cases.
“We are not allowed to communicate with students and families unless they are vetted by [superintendent’s] office,” the report says.
The Crotona International HS teacher who tested positive on March 12 told The Post he notified his principal immediately, and sent her his lab results from Montefiore Medical Center. He also warned as many colleagues as he could.
Fighting his illness and frustrated that the school remained open for staff training, he called the state and city health departments, as well as 311, but only got “a runaround.”
“It’s been 16 days, and no one from the DOH has contacted me,” he said. “I’m not saying Mr. Carranza has to call me directly, but no one from the DOE had the decency to ask ‘How is this guy doing?’”
As the deadly virus spread, Chancellor Richard Carranza sent a March 10 email telling subordinates not to alert health officials about COVID-19 cases, as The Post reported.
“At the moment, there is no reason for any school to call [the Health Department] to report potential or confirmed cases,” the email said, adding that the DOH would get test results from labs and that school personnel should help “by keeping their phones clear.”
On March 16, identical form letters signed by Carranza were sent to staff members in the Crotona building, saying the Health Department had “confirmed a positive result of COVID-19 in your school community.”
It added, “Based on the confirmed finding, our school building was disinfected” by the DOE’s facilities division.
The letters infuriated teachers who were told to still show up that week. At least a dozen had already obtained letters from their doctors recommending a 14-day quarantine because of their exposure to the teacher who tested positive. Many called in sick.
City Councilman Mark Treyger, education committee chairman, denounced the mayor’s handling of the crisis.
“This is another painful example of how the mayor’s structure for reporting COVID-19 cases is irresponsible, disconnected and broken,” he said. “When a member of the school community forwards a confirmed test result, we should take steps immediately to protect the well-being of the students and other staff in the building.”
Treyger believes the system was set up to avoid liability because Carranza’s memos “are the type not written by a compassionate educator, but a heartless lawyer.”
Chancellor Richard Carranza and NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio
‘Blood on their hands:’ Teachers say de Blasio and Carranza helped spread coronavirus
by Susan Edelman, NY POST, March 21, 2020

One after another, sick Brooklyn Technical High School teachers called union chapter leader Nate Bonheimer last week, to tell him they’d tested positive for COVID-19.
By Friday, five of them had shared the devastating news. But after being notified about each one, the city Department of Education still ordered the 6,000-student school’s 350 staffers to show up for work last week, saying the building had been cleaned.
“The DOE did not close the school for any of the cases,” said Bonheimer, who worries that inaction exposed others to the dreaded infection.
The city failed to follow a March 9 directive by the state Education Department that “requires an initial 24-hour closure, in order to begin an investigation to determine the contacts that the individual may have had within the school environment.”
DOE did not attempt to identify close contacts, Bonheimer said. “They did not alert the people who needed to know the most to protect themselves, their families and everyone else they came into contact with.”
One infected teacher was so torn by the secrecy he took it upon himself to personally let all his students know his condition.
Around the city, teachers and administrators are outraged that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza resisted a drum beat to close the public schools in the name of safety.
Some renamed the coronavirus  “Carranzavirus".
“You say equity and excellence, but every other school district closed before you did. You had these kids like petri dishes spreading this to their families,” an administrator fumed.
Some DOE employees believe de Blasio and Carranza deliberately kept the lid on the COVID-19 cases popping up, putting kids and families at risk.
“The blood is on their hands,” one said
DOE staffers think the two city leaders tried to cover up the cases because they wanted to keep the 1.1-million-student system running despite increasing pressure to shut it down. Finally, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about to do it, the mayor relented and closed the schools for students on March 16. They will remain shut until at least April 20, after the spring break.
An expert agreed the failure to notify health officials was dangerous.
“The chancellor was not properly following state policy,” said Aaron Carroll, a health sciences researcher and pediatrician at Indiana University School of Medicine.
The information freeze started March 10, when Carranza, in an email obtained by The Post, told administrators not to alert city health officials about COVID-19 cases among students or staff.
“At the moment, there is no reason for any school to call [the Health Department] to report potential or confirmed cases,” Carranza wrote, repeating the statement later in the same email.
Carranza said DOH would get test results from labs, and school personnel should help “by keeping their phones clear.”
Health department spokesman Patrick Gallahue said Friday the agency “was in agreement with DOE on the directive.”
At several campuses and DOE offices citywide, multiple staffers have tested positive but affected buildings remained open while workers, students and parents were kept in the dark, whistleblowers said.
At the Grand Street campus in Williamsburg, which houses three high schools, a teacher returned from a trip to China over the February break. Despite reports of the outbreak, the teacher did not self-quarantine, but returned to teach kids in all three schools Feb. 26 through Feb. 29, a staffer said.
The teacher then became sick and stopped working. The school was not closed, and employees were not notified, insiders said.
Up to four other staffers have since become sick, they said.
The teacher did not return a message, but a relative said Friday, “He’s very ill, and so is his entire staff,” before declining to comment further.
Last Thursday — after Grand Street teachers worked three days in a row in the building — the principals sent a joint letter saying that “members of our school community” had self-reported positive COVID-19 tests. It did not say how many members or give other details.
“Unfortunately, the DOE suspended keeping track of positive cases,” a teachers’ union official told a staffer on Tuesday. The DOE would not comment on the Grand Street or other cases.
At the Jamaica High School campus, which houses three schools, Carlos Borrero, principal of the High School for Community Leadership, blasted a robocall to parents the Sunday before schools closed for students, reporting the school had “one confirmed” case and another “preliminary positive” case identified over the prior two days — while students attended. One was a teacher, Borrero said.
Asked about the announcement last week, the DOE would not give details.
“The city is no longer confirming information about individual cases due to the volume, but we support any school that wants to notify their community of a self-confirmed case,” said DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
At the Grace Dodge High School campus in the Bronx, a teacher self-reported a positive COVID-19 test on Thursday, March 12, staffers said. The DOE did not close the school the next day, when kids still attended before de Blasio announced that all schools would close for students starting March 16.
Teachers received a form letter from Carranza confirming a staffer had tested positive, saying the building was “disinfected.” The school was not closed while teachers worked last week.
“We asked when students and parents would get notification, and they still haven’t gotten it,” a teacher said. The DOE had no comment.
Brooklyn Technical High School
At the Bronx’s Alfred E. Smith campus which houses three high schools, teachers reported for three days of training on remote-teaching to begin next week.
“Ten minutes before the end of the last day, the union rep walked through the hall and said, ‘You’re free to leave,’” a teacher said. She asked why.
As custodians arrived in Hazmat suits, the union rep replied, “There’s coronavirus in the building.”
by Susan Edelman, NY POST, March 28, 2020

A pregnant teacher who was hospitalized for COVID-19 says the city refused to close her Brooklyn school — even after she turned over positive lab results — while five colleagues also fell ill from the virus.
Frightened for her unborn child, Raquel Iacurto, 32, begged school officials to shut PS 199 Frederick Wachtel in Midwood and warn others about possible contamination, but she only hit roadblocks.
“I had a lab report and a letter from my doctor. It still wasn’t good enough,” the fourth-grade special-ed teacher told The Post.
Despite her pleas, the city Department of Education did not close the school on March 17 — 19 when the entire faculty was mandated to report for training on remote learning. What’s more, students and their parents flooded into PS 199 classrooms on March 19 to pick up books, iPads and laptops.
“All of my kids came in to get their stuff. They pretty much emptied their desks,” Iacurto, who was home sick, said she heard from colleagues.
It takes two to 14 days for symptoms to appear after a person is infected with COVID-19, and the virus can be transmitted in that time, experts say.
The five other staffers who tested positive include Andrew Rosenberg, 43, the union chapter leader, who also pushed for the school’s closure.
Faulting Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Rosenberg charged, “Their complete negligence should be investigated. They insisted on keeping the schools open without acknowledging confirmed cases, and knowingly put tens of thousands of people at risk.”
City Councilman Mark Treyger, the education committee chairman, said he is equally furious.
“They never shut the school down. They told staff to report to a building they knew had a confirmed case of the virus. They put lives on the line, and that is outrageous.”
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said a teacher’s “self-reported” lab result was insufficient. The school had to wait for official confirmation from the city health department.
“We’ve taken each potential case seriously and followed a clear protocol outlined by the state, which required health department confirmation to close,” she said. The DOE became aware of Iacurto’s “potential case” the weekend de Blasio decided to close schools for students, but left them open for three days of teacher training.
Iacurto, now 28 weeks pregnant, conducted parent-teacher conferences on Thursday, March 5. That day she met with about 24 parents in her classroom. She taught class the next day, and the following Monday and Tuesday. That Tuesday, March 10, was her last day at school.
“I started feeling symptoms when I came home from work,” she said, citing sinus pressure and body aches. “When I woke up the next day, I had tightness in my chest.”
Iacurto went to a walk-in clinic, where doctors suspected she had an upper respiratory infection, but sent her home because she didn’t have a fever. The next day “I woke up in a pool of sweat,” she recalled.
Her OB/GYN sent her to the ER at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in nearby New Hyde Park.
She was quarantined while workers monitored her baby’s heart rate, finding slight fluctuations. Three days later, on March 14, the baby’s heart rate had normalized. Iacurto was given a test for COVID-19 and discharged. That night, the hospital called with the results.
“I was shocked,” she said.
Iacurto immediately called her principal, Rosalia Bacarella, who said she would alert the District 21 superintendent, Isabel Dimola.
Iacurto emailed the principal a copy of her doctor’s note, which stated she had tested positive for COVID-19.
When PS 199 opened for business on Tuesday, March 17, Iacurto called to ask why. Bacarella said the city Health Department had not confirmed her COVID-19 case. The principal said custodians had cleaned on Monday, “and that was it.”
Meanwhile, the Nassau County Department of Health received Iacurto’s lab results, but because she lives in Queens it had to send them the NYC Health Department.
Iacurto sent the lab report to Bacarella. “I kept asking, ‘Is anything being done? Is there anything else I can do?'” she said.
She called 311, the city’s help line, explaining she was a teacher who had tested positive for COVID-19. Clueless, the operator said, “I don’t know what you want me to do.”
The teacher replied: “The school’s not shut down. The Health Department has to be contacted to confirm the case.”
The operator said she would transfer Iacurto to the health department, then disconnected the call.
“At that point, I was so aggravated,” Iacurto aid. “I was trying to help my colleagues out, and I was getting nowhere.”
Rosenberg, whose classroom is next door to Iacurto’s, worked all day March 19, handing out supplies to students, and gathered materials to start teaching remotely. The next day he fell ill, and tested positive March 21.
Shannon Grieg, 27, a paraprofessional, last worked in school on Friday, March 13. By Monday, she had pain in her arm, followed by fatigue, chills and a 103-degree fever. She tested positive that Sunday.
“Thank God I didn’t go in, I would have infected everybody,” said Grieg, who has a 3-year-old son.
Another paraprofessional last worked with kids on Friday, March 13. She tested positive last Monday.
Iacurto’s co-teacher did not go in last week because she already felt ill, Rosenberg said. She tested positive last Sunday.
The city did not close PS 199 until March 20, after all six staffers had tested positive — and after the training sessions and student pickups had already ended.
Despite the six COVID-19 cases, the DOE is unconcerned that staff, kids and parents still came in the building. Spokeswoman Barbot said in an email, “The city’s health department was clear that a positive case in the school or workplace environment did not put others at higher risk than did anywhere else in the city.