As the number of positive cases of the novel strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) climbs, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all schools statewide will be closed for a minimum of two weeks, and maybe more.
During his daily news conference on the outbreak, on Monday, March 16, Cuomo announced he is working with the state Education Department to ensure that all schools are shut down to help curtail the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Cuomo said that nearly 90 percent of New York Schools had already closed or had planned to close in the coming week. The order comes as those schools that remained open saw a rapid decline in student attendance amid the outbreak.
The closures will begin on Wednesday, March 18 for any schools not currently closed. Cuomo and the state Health Department will further evaluate certain areas by Monday, March 30, with the closure running through Wednesday, April 1, under the executive order.
“I want a uniform policy on the schools, like we have a universal policy on everything else,” he said, noting the policy announced earlier for the state’s casinos, gyms, theaters, and restaurants, all of which will be closed beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, along with those in New Jersey and Connecticut.
“This is a national problem, and we need federal leadership. Instead, you see a hodgepodge of efforts being taken across the county, and it’s chaos,” Cuomo said. “We need guidelines, rather than having a scramble of every local and state government all trying to figure it out on their own.
“People would be confused, so it’s important that we have one uniform policy for things like this.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools will be closed through Monday, April 20, and possibly through the end of the academic year.
“I believe the facts, unfortunately, have given us no other choice,” de Blasio said. “But there are three things that we are trying to protect. Most importantly our public health system, our hospital system, our clinics, everywhere that people go for health care, and two things that feed that system are public transit systems, and, of course, our schools.
“Now that we will not have our normal school schedule, kids in our normal school buildings, we are going to come up with a number of alternatives to try to, as much as possible, provide our kids with an education remotely and to provide a physical location for the children of those crucial public workers — those health care workers, transit workers, first responders.”
According to Cuomo, all child educational services and meal services for school districts must be in place and approved by midnight on Monday.
“This is not an easy decision,” the governor said. “There are negatives when you close a school, most notably, there’s no childcare for our essential personnel and healthcare workers. Nurses, healthcare workers, may not have alternatives to child care, and it may not be easy to get a babysitter.
“It will be a truly negative situation if we lost healthcare workers or responders if they have to stay home and take care of their children. The greatest challenge and greatest damage are going to be done if we have an overwhelmed healthcare system.”
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