As Schools Reopen, Districts Required to Report COVID-19 Cases

Riverhead Central School District welcomed students back on Thursday, September 3.

As many students head back to the classroom for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, state officials are requiring schools to report back to the state daily with the number of people who have tested positive for the virus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said that while the state’s infection rate remains low, schools must begin reporting their infection numbers on Tuesday, September 8, allowing for transparency as many brace for an uptick in cases with kids back at school. The information will then be posted online for the public to view the following day.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to all school districts this week informing them of the reporting requirements. The school districts’ daily data will be updated daily on the Department of Health-developed dashboard.

“Many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans, but as I’ve said from the beginning, those plans are only as good as their implementation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Parents and teachers are understandably concerned about schools reopening. Dr. Zucker and the State Department of Health will set up a dashboard for teachers and parents, so they know exactly what’s happening in their schools. I hope this will give teachers and parents some confidence that the plans are being implemented and if there’s a positive case, they will know and DOH will know and the locals can respond quickly.”

The districts are required to provide a link to the state’s daily dashboard on their website so it is easily accessible. 

Students were all smiles on the first day of school, even behind their masks. Courtesy Riverhead Central School District

Some students, such as those who attend the Riverhead Central School District, have already had their first day of the 2020-21 school year. On Thursday, students quickly got lessons in new health and safety protocols.

“We are thrilled to welcome our students back to school,” said Riverhead’s interim Superintendent of Schools Christine Tona. “While this was not a typical first day of school, it was certainly successful, with students following guidelines and eager to learn.”

Other schools, like the Ross School will not resume classes until later this month.

Last month, the governor approved schools reopening, though many have chosen remote learning over in-person teaching or a mix of both. Earlier this summer, he said schools could only reopen if the region’s COVID-19 infection rate was 5% or less. Long Island’s infection rate was 1.4% as of Friday, September 4, but has hovered around 1% for weeks.

Long Island’s infection rate has been slightly higher than the state’s overall infection rate. Cuomo announced Friday that New York had hit its fourth straight week with an infection rate that has remained below 1%.  

“Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers across the state, New York has now gone four straight weeks with an infection rate below one percent,” Cuomo said. “Next week, malls in New York City and casinos across the state will be able to open, marking another milestone in our battle against COVID-19. But we cannot become complacent – we must continue to protect our progress. We must all continue to wear masks, social distance, wash our hands and above all, stay New York tough.”  

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