All New York City public school students and staff should be tested for the coronavirus before entering school in September, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Wednesday.

Johnson’s endorsement of mandatory COVID-19 testing puts him in sync with the United Federation of Teachers, which has called for a universal testing and tracing program as a precondition for the reopening of schools during the lingering pandemic.

Johnson said he backed sweeping testing of 1 million students as well as staffers when asked about the Los Angeles school district’s decision to require mandatory testing.

“I think we should be doing that. We should have all of these tests lined up and prioritized for families and children and people that work in schools across the city,” Johnson said on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC radio show.

“Because we don’t want to be in a situation where you have an outbreak or you have multiple cases in a school where it gets shut down.”

Johnson, who is running for mayor next year, said many students from immigrant and lower-income families live in multi-generational households that include grandparents and mandatory testing could help curb the spread of the killer bug. He said there’s evidence that older and often asymptomatic teenage students are more likely to spread the virus to adults.

“You don’t want to be in a situation where kids are coming home and infecting their grandparents or parents. … We have to take every measure possible, like the testing you mention that they’re doing in LA, to give people peace of mind and to have the most accurate, up-to-date picture of where things stand for families and people that work in a school building,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he’s only encouraging everyone to get tested voluntarily at the city’s free public COVID-19 testing sites. He has resisted imposing a mandatory program.

“I really think at this point we have the strongest plan anywhere. It has not been the guidance around the world or the practice to do mandatory testing. Equally honestly, it’s not something the union was looking for or was comfortable with for quite a while,” de Blasio said.

He insisted that “we’re moving forward together” with the UFT to have a safe school reopening despite intense pushback from teachers and principals who’ve complained that the Department of Education’s safety protocols to date are deficient.

“What I’d like to emphasize is what we’ve been talking about for weeks and months now. We now have a very high level of free testing available here in New York City. Any New Yorker can get it anytime for free [at] over 200 locations and we’re going to be really amplifying that in the next days as the time frame becomes particularly pertinent to the opening of school,” the mayor said.

“We want the maximum number of educators and staff to get tested. We want the maximum number of kids to get tested and the best way to do that is to keep encouraging it and giving out that message that it’s available and free. We think this system is the best way to get it done.”

Meanwhile, Johnson also said he was open to requiring temperature checks before or when students arrive at school after a retired school nurse called and suggested the idea. High fever is considered an early symptom of COVID-19.

“We should think about doing that at schools,” he said. “If we decide not to do that, families should be doing that as well.”

The mayor’s reopening plan does require that temperature checks be conducted randomly at schools.

Johnson noted that rapid temperature checks — scanning the foreheads of employees, customers and students — is a widespread practice conducted by employers, stores and schools in the US and across the globe.



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