New York City health officials announced the closure of three more school buildings for Tuesday, bringing the total number of schools closed due to swine flu to 16.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein today announced that the City Health Department has recommended closing the Q209 building in Whitestone; which includes the Clearview Gardens School and P9, a school for students with disabilities; as well as the Marino Jeantet School in Corona and the State Street School in Flushing. Together, that increases the number of locked-out students by 3,229.
Administrators and city health officials took the steps after a total of 103 students in the four schools were documented with influenza-like symptoms during the last six school days.
The announcement is the latest development in a saga that is now ending its first full month of widespread media coverage. News coverage and public fear had just begun to wane. A dozen school closings on Monday and the death of 55-year-old Mitchell Weiner, an assistant principal at Susan B. Anthony Intermediate School in Queens, N.Y., on Sunday -- the city's first such fatality -- cast the spotlight once again on the mysterious illness.
Worldwide, the virus has sickened at least 8,829 people in 40 countries, according to the latest statistics released by the World Health Organization. A total of 76 deaths have been reported, mostly in Mexico.
"My first message today is that the H1N1 virus is not going away, despite what you may have heard," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a Monday press teleconference. "We do expect more illness, hospitalizations and death."
Weiner died Sunday night after spending five days on a ventilator battling swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus. He became the nation's sixth death from the widespread flu.
Bloomberg spoke about Weiner's death at the Monday press conference. "Mr. Weiner was a dedicated educator, and he was well liked by his students and cared deeply about them," he said. "His death is really a tragedy for our city and a terrible loss for the school community."
Officials have also reported three deaths in Texas, one in Washington state and one in Arizona.
Weiner, who taught in New York City for decades and started his career as a substitute teacher in 1978, was sick for nearly a week before the school where he worked was closed Thursday.
Doctors treated Weiner, who was overwhelmed by the illness, with an experimental drug as he slipped in and out of consciousness.
On Sunday, Bloomberg had said Weiner may have had other health problems that contributed to his death.
"This person may have had other health problems earlier. We're trying to identify that," Bloomberg said.
But the wife of the first person in the city to die of swine flu disagreed. Bonnie Weiner said her husband did not have a pre-existing condition that would make him more susceptible to the H1N1 virus.
"Gout would not affect severity of swine flu," she said.
The school closures might not stop with St. David's, Frieden said during Monday's press conference.