Thousands of schools across the country are closed this week due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to data tracker Burbio.
As of Monday, 3,229 K-12 public schools that were previously scheduled to have in-person classes closed for at least one day during the first week of January.
The majority of closed school districts are moving to virtual learning for one to two weeks following winter break due to the increasing number of COVID cases. A few larger school districts, such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., are only closed for a few days in order to test returning faculty and families.
The average planned closure length for the week of Jan. 3 is six days, Burbio reports, but schools could delay further in-person instruction depending on COVID cases.
New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, insisted Monday that schools remain open despite increasing Omicron cases. "The safest place for our children is in a school building, and we are going to keep our schools open and ensure that our children are safe," he said.
"Our children were exposed to an environment of crime and uncertainty … the remote learning aspect of it was terrible for poorer communities, particularly those children that lived in homeless shelters or that … were housing insecure," he said, adding that schools also provide meals to children. He also stated that the city saw an increase in student suicide attempts during the lockdown.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said during an interview with "Fox News Sunday" that students need full-time in-person learning. "They've suffered enough," he said.
"Let's keep our children in the classroom," he added. "That should be our default thinking, and as problems come up we need to come together to solve them."
He also posted on Twitter last week: "Schools should be approaching Omicron with caution — but NOT fear. Just like we teach in the classroom, we can learn from past experiences, trust the science, and use tools like test-to-stay & vaccination to keep schools safe & open."
The Biden administration rolled out a "test-to-stay" option last month to allow students to remain in school. Faculty and students are also encouraged to get vaccinated and wear a mask.
Omicron is far more contagious than other COVID variants. While more children are now being hospitalized with COVID, The New York Times reports that preliminary data suggests that, similar to findings for adults, the newest variant is milder for children.