As swine flu is blamed for two more deaths, the illness that has gripped New York City has caused five more schools to close Wednesday.
Health officials confirmed that two people who died in New York on Friday died from the swine flu, bringing the total of deaths from the illness to four here in New York.
“Our hearts go out to their families,” Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the two latest victims -- a 34-year-old man from Brooklyn and a 41-year-old woman from Queens --.tested positive for the H1N1 virus but also had other underlying health conditions. The two latest victims did not work for the school system, said Frieden, who released few other details at a news conference in lower Manhattan this afternoon.
Over the weekend, a Queens woman in her 50s became New York City's second swine-flu-related fatality, the health department said. All four of the city's victims had underlying conditions which made their bodies unable to fight off the virus.
Last week, assistant principal Mitchell Wiener, who taught in Queens, became the city's first victim after a nearly weeklong battle with the virus. Wiener, who died on May 17, was a life-long Mets fan and beloved assistant principal for 30 years at the Susan B. Anthony school in Hollis, Queens. His wife, two sons and more than 400 mourners remembered him at a funeral service on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the city closed five more schools Tuesday to slow the spread of the virus. The closed schools are PS 128 in Washington Heights, PS 68 in Wakefield, 369K at Coy L. Cox School in Boerum Hill, Q811 at 822 in St. Albans and 231K at PS/IS 180 in Bensonhurst.
Q811's presence at 822 is a small building that teaches students with disabilities. Six students there have been documented with flu-like illnesses in recent days.
Officials are only closing the special education part of PS/IS 180, where five students are reported to be experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Seven students at 369K, also the special-education portion of the school, have reported illnesses in recent days.
It wasn't immediately clear how long the schools would be closed.
Wiener's school once again bustled with activity on Tuesday. The Susan B. Anthony Intermediate School in Queens -- I.S. 238 -- was among 20 schools or programs that reopened after being shuttered as a precaution amid the city's 330 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus.
"We just want to keep things moving," said Joseph Gates, principal of I.S. 238, as he helped load two buses of students headed for a school trip to Washington, D.C.
Hundreds of others filed into the schoolhouse, with teachers asking reporters not to interview them.
At Public School 19 in Queens' Corona neighborhood, schools Chancellor Joel Klein welcomed the children.
Third-grader Eric Sobarzo was dropped off by his big brother, Peter DeCaprio, who said he was confident that "whatever the problem was here, they must have fixed it."
Of the 20 schools or school programs that were to reopen Tuesday, 16 are in Queens, two in the Bronx and one each in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Five others closed in early May had already reopened. Another 18 New York schools, where students fell ill more recently, are closed.
But this week's reopenings signal that things may be returning to normal. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said Monday that closing yet more schools would not stop the spread of the virus.
City officials said last week that the reason for the closings was mainly to protect the most vulnerable — young children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with a chronic medical condition like asthma or diabetes.
Click here to see the city's updated list of school closures and re-openings.