China’s Tianjin testing all residents after Omicron found. The numbers are small, but the major port of Tianjin may be facing China’s first outbreak of Omicron of any size, less than four weeks before the Winter Olympics open in nearby Beijing.
The city began mass testing of its 14 million residents Sunday after a cluster of 20 children and adults tested positive for the coronavirus, including at least two with the Omicron variant. Officials said the virus has been circulating so the number of cases could grow.
China has stepped up its strict zero tolerance strategy in the run-up to the Olympics, which open Feb. 4. The Chinese capital is 70 miles northwest of Tianjin and many people regularly travel back and forth by car or on a high-speed rail link that takes less than one hour.
Elsewhere, millions of people are being confined to their homes in Xi’an and Yuzhou, two cities that are farther away but have larger outbreaks. Both have been traced to the Delta variant. The outbreak in Yuzhou is also affecting Zhengzhou, the Henan provincial capital 40 miles to the north. Zhengzhou has been conducting mass testing and is closing schools starting Monday.
The first two cases confirmed in Tianjin were a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman working at the after-school center. Both were infected by the Omicron variant. In subsequent testing of close contacts, 18 others tested positive and 767 tested negative as of Saturday night.
Those infected include 15 students from 8 to 13 years old, the after-school center staff member and four parents. The citywide testing is to be completed over two days. Tianjin has also closed some subway stations on two lines to try to prevent further spread.
China had reported about a dozen Omicron cases previously, most among people who had arrived from abroad and were isolated. In one case in mid-December, the infection was not detected until after the person had completed two weeks of quarantine, and it spread to a few close contacts in the southern city of Guangzhou.
More than 800,000 noncitizens and “Dreamers” in New York City will have access to the ballot box — and could vote in municipal elections as early as next year — after Mayor Eric Adams allowed legislation to automatically become law Sunday.
Opponents have vowed to challenge the new law, which the City Council approved a month ago. Unless a judge halts its implementation, New York City is the first major U.S. city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to noncitizens.
More than a dozen communities across the U.S. already allow noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
Noncitizens still wouldn’t be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal races, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges and legislators.
The Board of Elections must now begin drawing an implementation plan by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent noncitizens from casting ballots in federal and state contests.
It’s a watershed moment for the nation’s most populous city, where legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age inhabitants. The movement to win voting rights for noncitizens prevailed after numerous setbacks.
The measure would allow noncitizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the U.S., including “Dreamers,” to help select the city’s mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate.
“Dreamers” are young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who would benefit from the never-passed DREAM Act or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows them to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria.
The first elections in which noncitizens would be allowed to vote are in 2023.
“We build a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants,” said former City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who led the charge to win approval for the legislation.
Rodriguez, whom Adams appointed as his transportation commissioner, thanked the mayor for his support and expects a vigorous defense against any legal challenges.
Adams recently cast uncertainty over the legislation when he raised concern about the monthlong residency standard, but later said those concerns did not mean he would veto the bill.
While there was some question whether Adams could stop the bill from becoming law, the 30-day time limit for the mayor to take action expired at the stroke of midnight.
Adams said he looked forward to the law bringing millions more into the democratic process.
“I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation,” Adams said in a statement released Saturday night. He added that his earlier concerns were put at ease after what he called productive dialogue with colleagues.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio had similar concerns but did not move to veto the measure before vacating City Hall at the end of the year.
Opponents say the council lacks the authority on its own to grant voting rights to noncitizens and should have first sought action by state lawmakers.
Some states, including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado and Florida, have adopted rules that would preempt any attempts to pass laws like the one in New York City.
Principals, superintendents and counselors are filling in as substitutes in classrooms as the surge in coronavirus infections further strains schools that already had been struggling with staffing shortages.
In Cincinnati, dozens of employees from the central office were dispatched last week to schools that were at risk of having to close because of low staffing. The superintendent of Boston schools, Brenda Cassellius, tweeted she was filling in for a fifth-grade teacher.
San Francisco’s superintendent, Vince Matthews, has called on all employees with teaching credentials to take a class.
“This is the most challenging time in my 36 years as an educator,” Matthews said Thursday during a break from filling in as a sixth-grade science teacher. “We’re trying to educate students in the middle of a pandemic while the sands around us are consistently shifting.”
Staff absences and the surge driven by the Omicron variant have led some big districts including Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee to switch temporarily to virtual learning. Where schools are holding the line on in-person learning, getting through the day has required an all-hands-on-deck approach.
“It’s absolutely exhausting,” said history teacher Deborah Schmidt, who was covering other classes during her planning period at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy in St. Louis. On Thursday, she was covering a physics class.
In a school year when teachers are being asked to help students recover from the pandemic, some say they are dealing with overwhelming stress just trying to keep classes running.
“I had a friend say to me, ‘You know, three weeks ago we were locking our doors because of school shootings again, and now we’re opening the window for COVID.’ It’s really all a bit too much,” said Meghan Hatch-Geary, an English teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Connecticut. “This year, trying to fix everything, trying to be everything for everyone, is more and more exhausting all the time.”
Labor tensions have been highest in Chicago, where classes were canceled after the teachers union voted to refuse in-person instruction, but union leaders in many school systems have been clamoring for more flexibility on virtual learning, additional testing and other protections against the virus.
In New Haven, Conn., where hundreds of teachers were out each day last week, administrators have helped to cover classrooms. When her classroom aide did not show up for work Wednesday, special education teacher Jennifer Graves borrowed paraprofessionals from other classrooms for short stretches to get through the day at Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School — an arrangement that was difficult and confusing for her young students with disabilities.
“It’s very difficult to get through my lesson plans when somebody doesn’t know your students, when somebody is not used to working with students with disabilities,” Graves said. “Some students need sensory inputs, some students need to be spoon-fed. So it’s very hard to train someone on the spot.”
Even before infection rates took off around the holidays, many districts were struggling to keep up staffing levels, particularly among substitutes and other lower-paid positions. As a result, teachers have been spread thin for months, said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Assn.
“All of these additional burdens and stresses on top of being worried about getting sick, on top of being stressed like all of us are to after a two-year pandemic … it just compounded to put us in a place that we are now,” Pringle said in an interview.
Some administrators have already been helping for months in classrooms and cafeterias to fill in for sick and quarantining staff.
“We’re not in love with the circumstances, but we’re happy to do the work because the work is making sure that we’re here for our kids,” said Mike Cornell, superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District in New York, who spent time this fall on cafeteria duty poking straws into juice pouches and peeling lids off chips to fill staffing gaps.