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Vaccines up, closures down ahead of NYC middle school reopening

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Coronavirus-related public school closures in the Big Apple have plunged to low single digits with middle schools set to partially reopen Thursday — while nearly a quarter of the education department’s staffers have now been vaccinated against the virus.

Just three city schools were temporarily shuttered on Tuesday due to positive student or staffer cases, according to DOE data.

That’s a freefall from prior months, when hundreds of city schools were often simultaneously locked up due to COVID-19 cases.

On Dec. 22, for example, a total of 272 of 850 operating school buildings were closed because of the coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city’s existing policy to shutter a school with two or more unrelated COVID-19 cases will be revisited.

“We’ve got to move with the times and new information,” he told reporters. “Clearly our schools have been safe. The abundance of caution was the correct approach in the beginning. But now our kids need to be in school.”

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew speaks at Hillcrest High School vaccination center on Jan. 10, 2021.
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew speaks at Hillcrest High School vaccination center on Jan. 10, 2021.
Kevin C. Downs for NY Post

He also said that some 30,000 of the DOE’s 120,000 teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and other workers have now received the COVID-198 vaccine.

Separately, the United Federation of Teachers said that 8,000 members — including educators and paraprofessionals — have received the shot through their testing program.

Neither agency could say Wednesday if City Hall’s overall figure included the union’s tally.

The numbers don’t count teachers and school employees who receive the vaccine privately or out of the city.

Students wait in line to enter Hudson River Middle School on Oct. 1, 2020.
Students wait in line to enter Hudson River Middle School on Oct. 1, 2020.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

Union chief Michael Mulgrew, who has previously chided City Hall for not providing adequate teacher vaccination data, said that more must be done.

“The UFT represents more than 120,000 teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other school-based members,” he said in a statement. “Even putting the most positive spin on the city’s numbers, there are tens of thousands of staff who have not yet had access to the vaccine.”

Mulgrew added that the union has scheduled 23,000 vaccinations for members, but that only 8,000 have actually gotten the shot.

There are roughly 75,000 in-class teachers in the nation’s largest school system of roughly one million kids.

While the city and UFT have pushed for widespread teacher vaccinations, de Blasio indicated Wednesday that they weren’t a prerequisite for a wider reopening.

“Long before we even had the vaccine available, we had proven the safety of New York City public schools,” he said.

“Because of the gold standard we’ve set. And that remains true and we’re going to keep bringing schools back and keep vaccinating more and more people at the same time. “

Hizzoner repeated his optimism for a full reopening in September.

“The goal is to continue to have schools open more and more and more,” he said. “And then in September 100-percent full strength.”

While city middle schools are slated to begin opening up Thursday, high schools remain on a fully remote schedule.

Despite the partial revivals, about 70 percent of city kids are still learning solely from home.

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
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Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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NYC school leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

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The leaders of the city’s public schools and largest charter network both weighed in on the Derek Chauvin verdict with passionate statements about how there is still a long way to go to reach systemic equality.

Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter issued a personal commentary Tuesday night after the murder conviction of former Minnesota cop Chauvin.

“I felt pain and rage, deep in my bones,” she said of her initial reaction to George Floyd’s death. “It wasn’t a new feeling. I have felt that many times in my life, as a Black woman, sister, daughter, and mother to Black children—and as an educator who has served children of color in this city for more than 20 years.”

Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would be issuing guidance for teachers and families to help them process the verdict.

Eva Moskowitz with two students, the CEO and Founder of the Success Academy
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz issued a statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Brigitte Stelzer

“For our Black and brown children to know that they matter, the accountability this verdict represents is so important,” she stated. “In a world that too often tells them otherwise, accountability in this moment tells the Black and brown children in our schools that their lives matter, and lifts up the importance of their futures.”

Several teachers told The Post on Wednesday morning that they planned to broach the topic with their students to allow them to discuss Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s conviction.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Mark Lennihan/AP

“Because while the individual who took George Floyd’s life will be held accountable, we recognize that systemic racism, and the violence it fuels, is still creating tragedy and inequality across our country every single day,” Ross-Porter said. “We are all part of the work to undo this harm and reach true justice.”

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who oversees the city’s largest charter school network, also issued a statement.

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“We are grateful that justice has been served and that the judicial process has worked as intended,” she wrote. “We recognize, however, that this verdict does not resolve the systemic inequities that led to Floyd’s death; nor does it heal the anguish we feel witnessing our fellow citizens die at the hands of the public servants tasked with protecting us.”

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