New York’s COVID-19 infection rate has stayed steady and as a result, schools across the state have been authorized to reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
During a COVID-19 conference call with the news media on Friday, Aug. 7, Cuomo said that every region is below the threshold established by the state Department of Health, allowing students and teachers to return to the classroom for the upcoming academic year.
The Health Department previously announced that school districts in New York can prepare plans to reopen for in-person schooling in September if COVID-19 infection rates stay at 5 percent or lower in a given region.
In recent weeks, the infection rate has hovered around 1 percent.
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‘If you look at our infection rate, we are probably in the best situation in the country right now,” Cuomo said. “So if anyone can open schools, we can open schools, and that’s true for every region in our state.
“They are all authorized to open,” he continued. “We’re going to watch the infection rate, and if there’s a spike in the infection rate, that would be a matter of concern and we can revisit it.”
Before reopening, all 749 school districts in New York had to submit their reopening plan that includes guidance on how they plan to handle potential remote learning, testing, and contact tracing for teachers and students.
Districts were supposed to submit their proposals to the Department of Health by Friday, July 31, though Cuomo said that 127 districts failed to do so, and 50 of the plans submitted were either incomplete or deficient.
“The main questions that have been asked are how we’re going to contact trace, how we’re going to test, and how to do remote learning. Those all need to have separate plans that are posted,” he said. “We’re asking school districts to post those three components.”
Additionally, Cuomo is instructing school districts to host at least three discussions online with parents and one with teachers before Friday, Aug. 21 to allow for dialogue and to offer school administrators a chance to answer any questions that they may have.
“Parents need an opportunity to be heard, and schools should welcome the opportunity to actually explain the plan,” Cuomo said. “We also want districts to go through the plan with teachers so they can discuss exactly what the plan is and allow the teachers to air out any questions or concerns.”
Cuomo said that each school district is being tasked with coming up with its own reopening plan, said that the only statewide policy is the viral infection rate when it comes to opening or closing schools.
“The school districts are very different,” he said. “They’re all different sizes, different shapes, different configurations, and different communities. There is no one size fits all, so these have to be done district by district because the circumstances can be that different in each district.”
When schools open, teachers and students will be instructed to wear face coverings, and social distancing efforts will be made at all times, though interscholastic sports still have not been approved.
“If any state can do this, we can do this, and it’s not just about our infection rate,” Cuomo said. “It’s because we’ve been smarter than any other state as a people in dealing with this. I believe in New Yorkers, and they will decide what they want to do, and how they want to do it school district by school district.”
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