New York City's public school system will begin to shut down this week to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 700 people throughout the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday.
All public schools in Westchester, Long Island and NYC will close this week, according to Cuomo. The governor called for NYC school officials to have a plan in the next 24 hours on how to provide childcare for essential workers and provide food to students who will need meals.
NYC's school district is the largest school system in the country, with over 1.1 million students in more than 1,800 schools. The decision to close public schools came after mounting pressure from teachers and parents calling for the suspension of classes.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday press conference that schools will close as of Monday and will be suspended until late April. However, he said there's also a strong chance that schools won't re-open this school year.
Remote learning is set to start March 23, and some campuses will open as "enrichment centers" to provide teaching to vulnerable students.
"This is a very troubling moment, a moment where I am just distraught over having to take this action," de Blasio said.
The main obstacle to mass school closures were concerns that essential health and emergency workers would have to stay at home to take care of children, and that children in need would not receive food. But health experts have called for "social distancing" to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
Other major cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, have already decided to temporarily close schools.
Five people in the city have died from the virus, all of whom had other underlying health issues, according to de Blasio.
U.S. cases have surged over the last two weeks from about 100 confirmed infections on March 1 to almost 3,300 on Sunday, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University.