New York City is finally closing its schools. Now what?

Even though a community just north of the Big Apple (New Rochelle) recently became ground zero for the New York chapter of the coronavirus drama, Mayor Bill de Blasio had resisted calls to close the city’s public schools for weeks. Finally, over the weekend he relented. All schools will be closed starting tomorrow. Hizzoner probably felt that he was running out of options because the teachers’ unions were already calling for a “sick-out” by the staff and attendance had already plunged anyway, with many parents keeping their children home. (NY Post)

Mayor Bill de Blasio — facing a coup from parents and teachers over his refusal to close city schools amid the coronavirus –has finally succumbed to the mounting pressure and agreed to shut them down, well-placed sources told The Post on Sunday.

The closure will occur early in the week, a source added. Gov. Cuomo told 1010 WINS radio that “all schools in downstate New York will be closing,” specifically adding Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hizzoner had been stubbornly repeating his opposition to the move, insisting he was “very reticent” because of such things as leaving healthcare workers to scramble for childcare amid the spread of the coronavirus.

To be as fair as possible, the primary reasons the Mayor gave for refusing to heed earlier calls to shut down the schools were all valid. Many students get two of their meals per day at school and those from poorer families may not be able to make up the difference. Also, many people in the medical sector, along with first responders, will be left scrambling for childcare services now and potentially be unable to get to work during a crucial period.

But even with that said, all of de Blasio’s dithering may well wind up coming at a cost. First of all, despite having had weeks to figure out a way to address those concerns, de Blasio admitted yesterday that he still didn’t have a comprehensive contingency plan for an across-the-board school closure. This left a lot of people questioning what he’d been doing all of this time. The Mayor didn’t appear to have an answer to that question either.

The pressure had definitely been mounting. On Friday, the New York Post ran a screaming headline reading, “For the love of God, Mr. Mayor: Close NYC’s schools!” Even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had finally come around to this conclusion, calling for the immediate closure of all downstate schools.

One of the big concerns being discussed on local media with doctors is the fact that healthy children, if they become infected, are the most likely to display few visible symptoms different from the normal seasonal “bugs” that kids always pick up. This means that they can readily spread the disease around crowded places like schools for quite a while before anyone notices. If just a few of them in each of New York City’s 1,700 public schools were infected, the next couple of weeks could turn into coronavirus armageddon in Gotham. And while I pray that’s not the case, if it happens there will be a lot of people calling for de Blasio’s head on a platter.

So what comes next? Governor Cuomo has just put out a call to have the military step in and come to the aid of New York City. He said that if there isn’t more support for the hospitals and clinics on hand, the situation is a disaster waiting to happen. (NBC News)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday that he needs the U.S. military to step in and help expand hospital capacity because otherwise “this is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Cuomo said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he needs the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit old buildings and dorms to create more intensive care units beds; about 80 percent of New York’s hospital ICU beds are already occupied, he said.

I’ll give the Governor credit for ingenuity here. Assuming there are any “old buildings and dorms” available, retrofitting them into temporary hospitals could be an incredibly useful idea. But it also faces some immediate and potentially daunting challenges. First of all, if you’re at all familiar with the New York City real estate market, there are very few buildings just sitting around waiting to be put to use. And even if there are, those properties are generally owned by somebody. The state might have to simply seize the properties under powers granted during a state of emergency.

But even if they come up with enough buildings, it takes time for anyone – including the army- to develop a plan and secure the manpower and materials to convert them to usable hospital rooms. Then comes the challenge of finding all of the beds and medical equipment to make them useful, not to mention all of the additional doctors and nurses you would need to staff them.

I can tell you from personal experience that New York is currently in a state of what amounts to holding its breath. Everyone is on edge, hoping that this storm passes without leaving too much wreckage in its wake, but fearing that things could turn very ugly very quickly. But I will also take this opportunity to offer a rare bit of praise for Governor Andrew Cuomo. He’s been very aggressive in trying to deal with this situation right from the beginning and he’s been in constant communication with the public, keeping everyone informed of the latest developments and the plans being put into place. Sadly, the same can not be said for New York City’s mayor.