Mayor Bloomberg sought to calm worried parental units at a City Hall press conference yesterday, telling the press that most of the people going to the hospital with swine flu symptoms aren't sick, just scared: "While there are an abnormal number of people going to the hospital who are worried, virtually none, a very tiny percentage of them, have any symptoms whatsoever." But the mayor's downplaying of the outbreak comes as the city closes an additional three schools (bringing the current total to 25), and mourners bid farewell to Queens assistant principal Mitchell Wiener, swine flu's first city victim.

And at PS 153 in Brooklyn, more than 150 students, about 20% of the school's population, were absent on Tuesday. It's unclear how many of the absent students are actually sick with the flu and how many were kept away by protective parents, but one mom who's kept her fourth grader home since Monday tells the Daily News, "There's an outbreak of something in that school. I don't understand why they're not closing the school when so many kids are sick. Are they waiting for a tragedy to happen?" Or are they secretly using students as guinea pigs for some experimental new vaccine?

Meanwhile, the state's Deputy Health Commissioner was in Washington yesterday telling Congress that New York's budget cuts have left the Health Department helpless to battle another wave of swine flu: "The tank is empty at this point."The News has the best scare quotes! "We need to be prepared for a resurgence of this virus in the fall, potentially in a more virulent form," warns Daniel Sosin, head of the CDC's terrorism and emergency response branch. And Dr. Paul Jarris looks to the past and sees DOOM on the horizon: "This episode is not over. In 1918, the second wave was much more severe." (That H1N1 flu pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide.)