New York City schools to close Monday to fight coronavirus

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Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, addresses a news conference at UFT headquarters, in New York, Sunday, March 15, 2020. The New York City Council announced Sunday that it is suspending all hearings and meetings, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's still reluctant to shut down schools as other major U.S. cities have, despite pressure from teachers to do so. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – New York City will close the nation's largest public school system Monday, sending over 1.1 million children home in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus, the city's mayor announced Sunday.

A somber Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the decision to close schools through at least April 20 — and possibly for the school year — as similar closures occurred in communities and entire states nationwide and pressure mounted from New York residents, City Council members and others.

“I have no words for how horrible it is, but it has become necessary," de Blasio said. “As of now, school is canceled for tomorrow."

Hours later, he also took aim at the city's nightlife, saying he would sign an order Monday limiting the city's 27,000 restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery only. The order, which would take effect Tuesday at 9 a.m., would also shut down all nightclubs, movie theaters and concert venues.

The Democrat took the pair of actions on a day that New York City's death toll from the virus rose to five and the number of infected residents multiplied.

De Blasio had, for days, said that closing schools was a last resort.

Just Saturday, the Democratic mayor said keeping schools running was critical. He worried that health care workers and first responders would have to stay home to care for children, and that hundreds of thousands of poor students could go hungry without their free or reduced-price school meals.

He also expressed doubt that a temporary closure of just a few weeks would be effective in slowing the spread of the virus.