New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday released New York’s plan to reopen schools on Monday, based on if a region is in phase four of reopening and has less than 5 percent coronavirus infection rate over a two week period.
“Everyone wants to reopen the schools. I want to reopen the schools, everybody wants to reopen the schools,” Cuomo said during a briefing announcing the state’s plan on Monday. “It’s not, do we reopen or not. You reopen if it’s safe to reopen. How do you know it’s safe? You look at the data.”
According to the governor, schools will reopen if a region is in phase four of reopening with the daily infection rate remaining below 5 percent over a 14-day average by the first week of August. He added, if the regional infection rate rises above 9%, based on a 7-day average, after the first week of August, schools will not be allowed to reopen. All regions of New York are currently in phase four of reopening except for New York City, which currently is in phase three of the state’s regional reopening plan.
“We test more, we have more data than any state, look at the data. If you have the virus under control: reopen. If you don’t have the virus under control then you can’t reopen. We’re not going to use our children as a litmus test and we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is in danger,” Cuomo said. “It’s that simple, common sense, and intelligence can still determine what we do even in this crazy environment. We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) last week rolled out his proposed plans of part-time return to classrooms this fall with in-person instruction two or three days a week. The plan consists of students being on a “blended schedule” where students will physically be limited to a maximum of three days in the classroom and engaging in remote learning for the remainder of the week. The de Blasio administration said that they would send “schedules” to families in August so that parents “will know which days the students are expected in person.”
However, in order for New York City schools to reopen under the “blending learning” model, they will need the green light from Cuomo to approve such plan.
The New York State Education Department released a framework of guidance on Monday to help schools and school districts as they plan to reopen, either in-person or remote learning, or a combination of the two. The decision will ultimately be left up to districts and schools and they have up to July 31 to create and submit reopening plans to the state education department.
“Districts have to have flexible plans,” Cuomo stated. “They are prioritizing safety, maximizing available space. And we leave it to the 700 school districts across the state to come up with the specific plan pursuant to those guidelines.”
According to the New York Education Department guidance, schools will be required to perform health checks and screening, develop plans to maximize social distancing, develop plans to isolate a student if ill until they can be sent home, instruct students and staff in proper hand and respiratory hygiene, require face mask coverings and develop cleaning and disinfecting procedures in accordance with CDC guidelines. The guidelines also cover areas such as food service, transportation, after-school care, and extracurricular activities.
“Every child and person entering will be screened,” he said. “Tracing has to work in the schools. Cleaning and closure procedures. That’s all in the guidelines,” Cuomo said about the guidance.
Cuomo also slammed President Trump’s push for schools to reopen.
“He was wrong on the economic reopening. He’s wrong on the schools reopening,” the governor said. “He said just reopen, just reopen the economy. We saw how well that worked. Go ask Florida and Texas and Arizona how well that worked.”
The New York Governor also unveiled during the brief a pandemic-themed poster commemorating New York’s battle against coronavirus that features quotes from himself and the president as the “man in the moon.” The poster, inspired by early 20th Century campaign posters, depicts a mountain symbolizing the state’s “111 days of Hell.” Title “New York Tough,” symbols are scattered throughout the image used to show what took place during the period with nods to Cuomo’s family and President Trump. The president is depicted as “the man in the moon” and is shown sitting on a crescent moon with the words, “It’s just the flu” next to him.
“The sun is on the other side of the mountain. We just have to make it to the other side of the mountain. There’s the man in the moon – ‘It’s just a flu,’” Cuomo said.