Queens & Brooklyn schools warned of self-reported COVID-19 case

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A staff member of P.S. 221 the North Hills School in Queens that also worked at P.S. 316 in Brooklyn self-reported testing positive for the novel coronavirus, amNewYork Metro has learned.

The staffer last interacted with P.S. 221 students on March 12 and was last seen at P.S. 316 on March 13, prior to showing any symptoms, according to the Department of Education.

“New York City has been at community transmission for over a week, and while it’s impossible to trace the source of exposure, we urge all New Yorkers, including those in the PS 221 and PS 316 families, to follow NYC Health Department guidance, assume exposure, and monitor their health closely,” said Department of Education spokesperson Nathaniel Styer.

Both school communities were notified on Thursday of the positive case, said Styer. But P.S. 221 principal Patricia Bullard sent school community members a letter about the staffer three days ago on March 23rd, according to a copy sent to amNY.

“With respect to the P.S. 221 community, I am writing to inform you that a member of our school community has self-reported that they tested positive for COVID-19,” wrote Bullard. “A disinfection of the school building has been completed in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines. As a reminder, the DOE routinely conducts deep cleanings in your school.” Similarly vague letters have been to school communities across the city — including one to families with students at M.S. 41 in Bayside — sources familiar with the education system told AmNY.

The letter does not provide any details about the condition of the infected community member, whether they were a teacher or student or when they began showing symptoms, something that alarmed some school families. The letter also fails to mention the infected person worked at another school.

“We don’t know the level of exposure and it’s frightening,”said Cathy Grodsky, president of District 26 President’s Council. As a mother of four, Grodsky said she worries about children accidentally spreading the virus to others, especially to their own grandparents. Grodsky wish the DOE would include in their letters information on when a community member first started showing symptoms and their level of contact with students. “I know it’s because of privacy issues and it’s a catch 22, but it’s scary not to have that information.”

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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