Parents across New York City scrambled on Thursday morning to find child care and set up their children for full-time remote instruction less than a day after learning that public schools would shut because of rising coronavirus cases.

The news was delivered to principals in an email sent by the schools chancellor just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday — as the city recorded a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had delayed his morning news conference for hours, confirmed the news to reporters that afternoon.

The mayor could not give an estimate on when school buildings would reopen.

“Today is a tough day, but this is a temporary situation,” he said.

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Parents and teachers had been watching the city’s test positivity rate steadily increase, dreading the day when it would reach 3 percent. That was the threshold Mr. de Blasio set over the summer which would end in-person classes and require fully remote learning.

Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza had recently urged principals to prepare for shutdowns, while Mr. de Blasio encouraged parents to develop backup plans in case schools closed.

The school closure was a major setback in New York’s recovery after it was the global epicenter of the pandemic in the spring. Mr. de Blasio, the first big-city mayor in the country to reopen schools, pushed for in-person classes heavily over the summer as part of his plan to revive the city.

The mayor cautioned on Wednesday that schools would not automatically reopen once the seven-day positivity rate drops below 3 percent. He may wait until community transmission stabilizes at a lower rate to avoid reopening and then having to close again.

It was a chaotic and confusing day for parents and educators as the announcement itself was delayed for hours. The mayor’s 10 a.m. news conference was repeatedly pushed back and finally began at 3 p.m.

At a separate news conference earlier in the afternoon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shouted at a reporter who asked whether schools would remain open. While he was speaking, The New York Times reported that schools would close on Thursday.

The mayor said he spent much of the morning consulting with Mr. Cuomo on how to reopen schools. They plan to mandate more testing of students and staff members and require students to have a permission slip that will allow them to get tested in school buildings.

The sudden change to all-remote learning will disrupt the education of many public school students who had been attending school in person. Many parents depend on their children being in school for at least part of the week in order to work.

Educators and parents had also criticized the city for not improving remote learning even though about 70 percent of children already take online classes full-time.

Some students, including those in homeless shelters, have not received iPads or laptops from the city, and teachers have said that some students struggle to log on.

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