NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The number of coronavirus cases continues to spike across the Tri-State Area, and students across the region have been sent home for weeks.
In the city, they won’t return until April 20 at the earliest and leaders are now working on meal programs and on-line lessons, reports CBS2’s Aundra Cline-Thomas.READ MORE: New York City To Hold July 7 'Hometown Heroes' Ticker Tape Parade For Health Care Workers, First Responders, Essential Workers
By noon Monday, there were 950 patients in New York State, with 463 of those in New York City, where the death toll had risen to five. New Jersey reported 98 cases, and Connecticut had 26.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has closed the city’s public schools, calling it a tough but necessary decision. Schools will move to a remote learning model until at least spring recess, with the possibility that could be extended for the remainder of the school year.
“It is very painful. It is going to be very difficult for a lot of families. And so this is a decision that I have taken with no joy whatsoever, with a lot of pain honestly, because it’s something I could not in a million years have imagined having to do,” de Blasio said Sunday.
The mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo hesitated to shutter the schools, concerned about child care for essential workers and critical food programs for students in need.
Despite suspending in-person instruction, schools across the city will be handing out boxed meals from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., so thousands of kids won’t go hungry.
Every child is eligible, whether they attend their neighborhood school or not.
New York City Public School Chancellor Richard Caranza was at Hernando De Soto school in Chinatown where the grab-and-go food was available.
“They can pick up their breakfast and their lunch at the same time,” said Caranza. “We can expect to have more and more traffic as the week goes on.”
Many parents are still adjusting to this new normal.
“It’s a little hard,” said parent Jimmy Cando. “I have to work because I have to pay the rent. I have to pay the bills.”
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“I know that some people, probably some parents, are going to have a hard time, because they may not have anybody to take care of their kids,” said Upper West Side resident Andrea Luna.
Cline-Thomas met Luna early Monday outside Trader Joe’s, where there was already a very long line.
“I’m fortunate enough that my job actually had me work from home, so I do have my son at home with me,” she said.READ MORE: 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Returns In Front Of A Live Audience Monday Night
As Luna and her son hunker down, she hopes to create a routine.
“We’re going to act like it’s a regular day. We’re going to get up at 6 in the morning. I’m going to get dressed, he’s going to get dressed. He’s going to start doing his homework at 8-o-clock in the morning,” she said.
Although school may be closed for the foreseeable future, it’s important students’ education continues.
All public schools will begin providing online instruction next week, but Caranza says an estimated 300,000 students don’t have devices or access to the internet at home.
“We’ve already ordered hot spots,” he said. “We teamed with Apple. We bought laptops. We’re going to have laptops coming in at about 25,000 a day over the next week or so.”
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The city is also working on a plan to provide child care for health care workers starting next week.
Starting Tuesday, teachers and principals across the city will learn how to take their lesson plans online for remote learning, which his set to begin on March 23. Schools will provide internet-connected devices for all students who don’t have one.
“We’re going to also prioritize our students living in temporary housing, our students that are living in poverty and students that do not have access to those resources,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
Schools on Long Island and in Connecticut are following suit.
“This is a time when parents – you’ve got to do your job making sure that your kids are maintaining that social distance,” she said.
Schools will focus on distance learning using the internet.
Long Island leaders say they want the state to step in with extra financial help and child care for health care workers.Another Violent Weekend In New York City: 22 Shot, 5 Dead Within 72 Hours
In New Jersey, Gov. Phi Murphy said he expects to make an announcement regarding school closures this afternoon.