School buildings and businesses should reopen together across the entire New York City metropolitan area, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
Whether that actually happens and when it may occur remains to be seen, he added.
Mr. Cuomo was responding to a series of questions at Saturday’s COVID-19 media briefing about an announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that the city’s public schools would remain closed through the end of the school year, but that businesses could reopen as early as May.
The governor said that while he respects the mayor’s position, he believes it’s not his call to make.
“It is my legal authority in this situation,” Mr. Cuomo said.
At a minimum, the governor said, schools and businesses should reopen at the same time across New York City, Long Island and Westchester. He said he’d like to see that extend across the entire state and possibly New Jersey and Connecticut.
“You can’t make a decision without coordinating,” Mr. Cuomo said, calling Mr. de Blasio’s announcement “his opinion.”
The governor said childcare would be a big reason to connect the reopening of businesses and schools.
“I don’t understand how you reopen businesses in May but keep schools closed in June,” he said, adding that workers would be forced to figure out what to do with their children. “I don’t get that.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he agrees with the governor in wanting to see a regional approach to reopening buildings. He also noted that childcare would be a primary reason to coordinate the reopening of businesses and schools.
The county executive said it “remains to be seen” when schools should be reopened.
“The prudent approach is to take this one step at a time,” he said adding that extending the closure two weeks at a time seems to be the right approach.
School buildings across New York State were closed first on March 16 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Nonessential businesses were then ordered shutdown four days later. While no timetable has been given for a possible reopening of either, the most recent executive order from the governor assures both will remain closed until at least April 29.
Some more takeaways from the governor and county executive’s Saturday media briefings:
• Both Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Bellone reported positive numbers in terms of hospitalizations and the “flattening of the curve.” Mr. Bellone said 1,658 patients are currently hospitalized out of a capacity of 3,404 beds. Of the 771 intensive care beds in the county, 541 are in use.
In the past 24 hours, 160 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from Suffolk hospitals.
“That is great news,” he said. “It’s the highest we have seen and I think a measure of where we are going.”
• The county executive said a computer glitch caused the number of COVID-19 cases to be over-reported the past few days. He said the actual total is now 20,321. The number on Friday should have been 19,246.
The total number of confirmed cases in Riverhead Town climbed to 200 Saturday and 237 in Southold. There are now five confirmed cases on Shelter Island.
Statewide there have now been 180,458 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 8,627 deaths. The total number of deaths in Suffolk County stands at 458, according to the county executive.
• New data provided by the New York State Department of Health gives a breakdown in the ethnicity of Suffolk County’s first 339 fatalities from the coronavirus.
The statistics show that 228 of the dead were white, 47 Hispanic, 35 black, 7 Asian and 22 were classified as “other.”
When those statistics are adjusted by population and other factors, such as age, black residents appear to be particularly vulnerable. About 30 in every 100,000 black residents in Suffolk County has died from the virus, a significant increase from the county average of 22.9 residents per 100,000.
The age-adjusted death rate indicates a significantly higher rate of younger black and Hispanic residents are dying from COVID-19.
• Mr. Bellone said school districts across Suffolk have provided over 770,000 free meals to students who are home during the pandemic. About one-third of those meals were distributed this past week.