Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seemed to forget that they were in the middle of a pandemic during a visit to a Harlem middle school on Friday where they were seen hugging children – many of whom who were unlikely to be vaccinated.
The Sussexes arrived at Harlem’s PS 123 Mahalia Jackson school where Meghan read to a group of students before they were photographed hugging dozens of young school children. The school teaches children from grade 3 through to grade 8, putting students between the ages of 8 and 13. However, the group the royal couple met with appeared to be young than 12.
The children and the couple were all seen wearing face masks, which have been mandatory in schools across the state since New York Governor Kathy Hochul reimplemented the mask mandate after she took office last month.
The official order requires students, faculty and staff for all grade levels wear face masks in both public and private schools.
The public safety measure comes at a time when children under the age of 12 have yet to get approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the new Delta variant makes up the majority of new cases.
Masks are not required for students eating lunch outside or for those who participate in outdoor sports but those who were meeting the Duke and Duchess all appeared to be wearing face coverings.
It all got too much for some of the children who were reduced to tears as they were embraced by the former working members of the royal family.
Meghan Markle hugs children at the PS 123 Mahalia Jackson school in Harlem during Friday’s visit where she read her book
Harry hugs an emotional student during their visit which was touted as a way to promote early literacy for children
Students are required to wear masks while inside at school but outdoors the rules are relaxed
New York City schools have in-person learning this year although at least one school in Harlem has been forced to resume remote learning.
P.S. 79 in East Harlem went all-remote following the discovery of 19 COVID cases at the school.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been adamant on all school learning to be in-person this year, but there are concerns.
‘We do not hesitate to intervene to stop the spread. We follow stringent guidance from health experts to prevent any further transmission by quarantining close contacts, close classrooms, and if necessary, entire buildings,’ a Department of Education spokesperson explained earlier this week.
‘We’re focusing on right now we need testing every week, not ever other week, especially in the elementary schools, where children can’t be vaccinated, because that’s our early warning system to keep those children safe,’ UFT President Michael Mulgrew said to ABC7.
Across the city’s traditional public schools, 635 classrooms were fully closed and 527 were partially closed as of Friday, according to the tracker. There were 197 total cases of COVID-19 over the last week in New York City schools consisting of 150 students and 47 staff.
Dozens of children at the school were able to grab a hug with the duke and duchess during their visit to a Harlem school
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex is seen in Harlem on Friday
The Sussexes came to the school alongside New York City Schools’ Chancellor Meisha Porter late Friday morning, after leaving their luxury hotel in Manhattan in their fleet of gas-guzzling SUVs for day two of their three-day New York City tour.
Meghan sported a $5,840 Loro Piana cashmere coat and matching $1,680 pants for her visit to the public school which serves shelters for families without permanent homes. Her shoes are thought to be $665 Manolo Blahnik red suede pointed toe pumps.
She accessorized her look with around $387,000 worth of jewelry including her $350,000 engagement ring, a $4,500 diamond ring from her first public engagement with Harry as his fiancee, Princess Diana’s $23,000 Cartier Tank watch, a $6,900 Cartier Love bracelet, and a $3,000 Jennifer Meyer tennis bracelet.
While there was no expense spared for Meghan’s outfit for the visit – which designed to promote early literacy – data from NYC Department of Education reveals an estimated 95 percent of students at the public school fall on the economic need index.
The index means they face financial hardship, based on temporary housing, eligibility for public assistance and Census poverty rates.
A total of 94 percent of students are also eligible for free meals, according to Public School Review. This compares to 51 percent of students across the state.
Prince Harry bent down to receive hugs from several of the school children at the Harlem school
The prince is seen embracing a group of children at the school which is supported in part by nonprofit Graham Windham
Meghan hugs students at PS 123 Mahalia Jackson school in Harlem, New York City, during the visit Friday morning
Meghan donated copies of her book to the school and the students presented her with paper hearts of pink and white with drawings and messages as the Sussexes left the school
Harry jokes around with the children. Data from NYC Department of Education reveals an estimated 95 percent of students at the public school fall on the economic need index
Meghan chats with a little girl in the outdoor tent area at the Harlem school which was set up for the reading event
Meghan and Harry hug people at the school goodbye as they leave to embark on the remainder of their day’s meetings
The couple appeared to have worked up an appetite during the visit as they then headed on to local soul food joint Melba’s for a bite to eat.
The restaurant, founded by Harlem native Melba Wilson, ties in well with the Sussexes’ whistlestop tour promoting vaccine equity as it became a COVID-19 vaccine pop-up to try to boost take-up in the neighborhood.
The couple had been spotted exiting the Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with their beefed-up security to embark on what is expected to be another day of mystery meetings and engagements around the Big Apple.
The couple kicked off the first day of their tour Thursday rubbing shoulders with New York lawmakers and UN officials as well as paying their respects to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at Ground Zero.
They also visited the offices of the World Health Organization (WHO) where they held a meeting with Chelsea Clinton, health officials and other experts to discuss vaccine equity – ahead of their appearance at Saturday’s Global Citizen concert.
On Thursday night Harry, 37, was spotted in Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel chatting animatedly with the people at his table – with no sign of Meghan, 40, in sight.
They are staying at the lavish hotel, where top-tier rooms cost up to $8,800 a night, during what is their first major public appearance since they shocked the world by stepping back as senior working members of the royal family last January.
Meghan sported a $5,840 cashmere coat and matching $1,680 pants for her visit to the public school where 94 percent of students are eligible for free meals, according to Public School Review
Meghan holds up some pink paper hearts which the children have illustrated and gave to her as a gift before they left
Meghan is seen reading her book The Bench to a group of second-grade students under a white tent in the playground
Harry is seen sitting among the second-grade students on the ground as they enjoy storytime with his wife Meghan
Data from the NYC Department of Education shows 95% of students at the school fall onto the economic need index
Both Meghan and Harry opted for more casual looks for the visit to the school in Harlem Friday, compared to their business-like attire the day before.
The prince, meanwhile, swapped his formal suits for beige chinos and a long-sleeve navy polo shirt for the school visit, was touted as a way to promote early literacy.
The couple sported matching black face masks as they greeted children in the playground of the public school, who showed the couple a brightly colored mural they had made.
Meghan then took to the stage at an outdoor reading event to read her children’s book The Bench to a group of second-grade students.
Harry sat cross-legged on a cushion on the ground with around two dozen seven-year-olds as they listened to the duchess read aloud from the book.
‘I wrote this when we just had our little boy, and I haven’t read it to any other kids but you,’ she told the children.
After reading the book, she then took questions from some of the students and asked them what special place they share with the important people in their lives.
‘It doesn’t have to be a bench. It can be anywhere where you feel comfortable,’ she told them.
The Bench, released in June, explores the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’.
Meghan has previously said the book was inspired by a poem she wrote for Harry on his first Father’s Day – one month after Archie was born.
Illustrations throughout are inspired by the Sussex family – including their daughter Lilibet Diana who was only born four days before its release and after the illustrations were drawn.
Meghan and Harry pose for photos with the school children in Harlem, New York City, on the second day of their tour
Meghan poses with a group of students and staff at the public school in the heart of Harlem during the Friday morning visit
Students showed the couple a brightly colored mural in the playground, before they posed for photos in front of it
Meghan and Harry hug people at the school goodbye as they leave to embark on the remainder of their day’s meetings
Harry chats to a student in the playground as they gather to sit and listen to Meghan reading out her children’s book
Meghan and Harry donated copies of her book The Bench to the school as well as two garden boxes filled with vegetables
The Sussexes posed for photos with students at PS 123 Mahalia Jackson school as they showed the couple a mural in the yard
Meghan read her children’s book The Bench to a group of second-grade students (aged around seven) at the public school
Meghan waves at the students as the couple arrive at the Harlem school Friday on day two of their New York City trip
Harry joins the children on the ground as they sit and listen to Meghan reading from her children’s book The Bench
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited the school in Harlem where 94 percent of children are eligible for free meals
Second-grade students sit cross-legged on green cushions in the school playground to listen to Meghan read The Bench
The couple sported matching black face masks as they greeted children in the playground of the public school
The Sussexes arrive at the Harlem school Friday before Meghan read her book to a group of seven-year-old students
The Sussexes pose for photos with the students at the school where they donated two garden boxes with vegetables
The Bench, released on June 8, explores the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’
Meghan donated copies of her book to the school and the students presented her with paper hearts of pink and white with drawings and messages as the Sussexes left the school.
The couple also donated two garden boxes filled with vegetables and herbs to the school. Through their Archewell Foundation, in partnership with Proctor & Gamble, they also stocked the school’s pantry with personal health and hygiene supplies.
They plan to donate a washer and dryer to the school as well so more children can have clean uniforms.
Meanwhile, the students also gifted Meghan with some of their drawings which they had penned onto pink paper hearts.
The duchess looked through the drawings after her reading session.
An anti-vax and anti-mask heckler stood outside the school shouting through a bullhorn during the visit from the couple.
The school, supported in part by the youth and family nonprofit Graham Windham, serves children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The duchess speaks with students and staff at the school which serves shelters for families without permanent homes