Schools in New York state will remain closed for the balance of the current school year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced today. Cuomo said that a decision on whether they will be allowed to open for in-person summer school classes will be made by the end of May.
“You would need to see a drop or stabilization of the infection rate for a period of time because kids are going to be kids,” Cuomo said about the question of whether to allow summer school. “There is no decision on the fall because the fall is a long time away,” Cuomo said.
Schools have continued some educational activities online and also have been active as distribution centers for meals provided to students who qualified for food assistance and normally received breakfasts and lunches while school was in session.
Cuomo noted that the state has 700 public school districts with 4,800 schools and 2.59 million students. In addition, there are 1,800 private schools with 400,000 students. The state has more than 100 private colleges with 500,000 students and 89 SUNY and CUNY campuses with 700,000 students.
The governor said that schools and colleges should begin now to create plans for future reopening.
“How does a school socially distance?” Cuomo asked. “How many more rooms would you need. How many more buses to socially distance on a bus. How about a cafeteria?” Cuomo said that methods for keeping children spread apart to comply with social distancing recommendations would be needed.
Cuomo provided a checklist of items for schools and colleges to consider when they create reopening plans. These included:
- How can schools monitor the spread of COVID-19?
- How do we instill parent confidence and reinforce student safety?
- When, and how, will extracurricular activities reopen?
- Do protocols for special student populations change?
- On college campuses, how will housing, meals and gatherings work?
- What steps need to be taken to ensure student mental health?
- How can colleges best work together to share services and offer opportunities across public and private systems?
- Would alternative academic calendars work?
Cuomo presented statistics showing that the number of new hospitalizations has been below 1,000 for the past four days, with 954 new patients yesterday. Deaths dropped from 306 on Wednesday to 289 yesterday, with 22 fatalities in nursing homes and 267 in hospitals. He presented statistics showing that over the past three days, Westchester averaged 74 new hospitalizations a day, accounting for 7.8% of the state’s total.
Cuomo said that because of the success of social distancing and the business shutdown approximately 100,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations have been avoided so far.
Cuomo said more attention needs to be paid to mental health issues, especially among health care workers who have had to deal with effects of the disease in stressful settings and other first responders and frontline workers. Cuomo said that he is directing service providers and health insurance companies in New York state to waive copays and deductibles normally passed along to patients seeking mental health treatment.
While Cuomo was conducting today’s news conference at the state capitol, two protests were taking place outside. One group wanted Cuomo to immediately reopen the state and the other group was asking that a moratorium be imposed on rent payments. Cuomo explained that there already is a ban on evictions until June and he’ll decide what else to do before that ban expires.
“I get their political opinion. I get the political spectrum. I hear them,” Cuomo said. “I understand why people say, ‘Liberate New York, open everything up.’ I understand why people say, ‘Close everything, you’re going to kill my children.’ I get the arguments. What I said is this is not a political decision. Let’s make a decision on the facts.”