Cuomo: Schools should begin planning for fall reopening

Distance learning is set to continue for summer school programs, but school districts should begin to plan for a potential fall reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during a press conference Thursday.

As he spoke about reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year, Mr. Cuomo noted that a COVID-related inflammatory illness similar to Kawasaki disease has been documented in at least 157 children in New York. Cases have now been confirmed in 25 states and 13 countries.

Continued investigation into the illness will be a guiding factor in reopening schools. 

“It’s still too early to make that determination,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We want to get more information on this inflammatory syndrome,” as well as the development of treatment and a vaccine, he said.

Next month, the state plans to issue a set of guidelines that schools must adhere to in order to open. School districts would then be required to submit their reopening plan to the state, to either be approved or denied for a September opening.

“You have 700 school districts,” the governor said. “Nobody’s been here before.”

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released guidelines on how schools should proceed toward reopening this fall.

The new set of recommendations includes requiring masks for anyone over the age of 2, spacing desks six feet apart all facing the same direction, not allowing students to share supplies and conducting daily health and temperature checks when possible.

The guidelines also recommend closing playgrounds and other communal spaces, such as cafeterias. Other aspects of school — from bussing to field trips and assemblies — could also be altered due to the health crisis.

Schools have remained closed in New York since mid March, initially closed for a two-week period that was ultimately extended through the end of the academic year.

Over the summer, school districts may continue meal programs and child care for essential workers, Mr. Cuomo said.

Officials said no decision has been made on summer day camps, which could be permitted to operate under similar guidelines used by daycares that have remained open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Until we have an answer on this pediatric syndrome … as a parent, I would not send my children to day camp,” Mr. Cuomo said. 

As the decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues, the governor reported 105 deaths related to the virus Wednesday, down from 112 on Tuesday.

Here are additional takeaways from the governor’s daily briefing:

  • As the state continues its aggressive contact tracing program, the governor said state health officials will be contacting individuals who may have been exposed to someone with the virus. Under the program, people may receive a phone call from “NYS Contact Tracing” if they’d been in contact with someone infected. Gov. Cuomo said you should pick up the phone call. “It’s not a hoax, it’s not a scam, it’s not a fraud,” he said. “It’s for your health and for your family’s health.”
  •  In an effort to help small businesses, the state has extended the sales tax filing deadline to June 22.
  • The governor said that increased activity, especially as regions begin reopening, does not necessarily have to lead to a rise in cases. He urged the public to continue taking precautions, such as wearing a mask.
  • The governor revealed more results from antibody tests done on essential workers, including transit workers and law enforcement, which revealed a lower than expected infection rate. He attributed this to the use of PPE, again reiterating that members of the public should use masks.
  • State and Suffolk County beaches will reopen Friday, with their capacities limited to 50%. When planning beach trips, the governor said people should take the limits into consideration. Officials expect beaches may reach capacity as early as 10 a.m. this weekend.