Schools and colleges across New York will remain closed for the rest of the academic year thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, May 1.
“We must protect our children,” Cuomo said on the decision to “air on the side of caution” by continuing to keep 4.2 million students out of classrooms in kindergarten through twelfth grade schools, as well as college facilities.
Distance learning and meal programs will continue. A decision on summer school programming will be announced at the end of May.
“Nobody can predict what the situation is going to be three, four weeks from now,” the governor said.
The state is still seeing a little less than 1000 new COVID-19 cases per day. While it appears to be a figure that is plateauing, “that is still too high a number of new cases to have every day,” Cuomo said.
The daily death toll has also fallen though, with 289 dying on April 30 — “lower than it has been, but still tragic and terrible,” the governor said. The hospital system continues to be burden by the new cases, though intubation rates also continue to decrease.
The state needs to “drill down” on the new cases. Questions about where the new cases are coming from need to be answered so that state officials can come up with a more targeted response, Cuomo said. The governor has an afternoon phone conference with hospital leaders to request they begin collecting and sending more specific data-driven information. Are the new cases coming from essential workers? How do they commute? Demographics, such as sex, age, and previous health status will also be collected.
A three-day rolling average shows that 17.5 percent of the cases are in Manhattan, and on Long Island, 10.1 percent in Nassau in Nassau County and 7.4 percent in Suffolk.
County Executive Steve Bellone said he knows the decision wasn’t an easy one, but believes it was the right one for Suffolk County.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking this measured and decisive action that is in the best interest of our school children, teachers, faculty, and all families that call Suffolk County home,” he said. “While there certainly has not been a school year that ends quite like this one, my office remains in constant contact with the School Superintendents Association and I would like to thank each of our school superintendents and all of our teachers who have found innovative ways to continue school instruction through remote learning. This effort has been a herculean undertaking between government and our teachers, school administrators, parents, and even the children who have bought into this coordinated approach and our hope is that the 2020-21 school year will be the best one yet.”
No decision has yet been made about reopening the state’s economy and whether New York PAUSE — the governor’s executive stay-at-home-order, will continue past May 15.
When asked if school would reopen in the fall, Cuomo said he would not speculate, “because fall is a very long time away,” he said. However, the governor added, “You would need to see, in my opinion, a drop in a stabilization in the infection rate for a period of time because kids are going to be kids” and possibly ignore social distance rules that schools will try to put in place.
Education centers need to start preparing for how they will protect students and staff when they do eventually reopen.
“How does a school socially distance?” Cuomo asked. “How many more rooms would you need to do this? How many more buses do you need to socially distance on a bus? How about a cafeteria? How about a dorm room?”
Mental Health Crisis
The governor has directed all insurers to waive deductibles and co-pays for essential workers so that they may get the mental health support they need. The state is also partnering with the Kate Spade New York Foundation, a nonprofit that annually contributes to causes that support women’s economic empowerment, access to opportunity, and pathways to mental well-being to underserved communities of women in New York City and beyond, and Crisis Text Line, a global not-for-profit organization providing free confidential crisis intervention via SMS message, to offer support.
“This COVID crisis has caused significant disruption and many unintended consequences and ancillary issues,” Cuomo said. Among them, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loneliness, isolation, and an increase in drug use and alcohol consumption. Half of all Americans say their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
“If you’re feeling these issues,” Cuomo said, “you’re not alone.”