Cuomo: 'All school districts can open' as infection rates remain low

By 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- All of New York state’s school districts will be allowed to reopen this fall if they choose to do so, as COVID-19 infection rates are “below the threshold that we established,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday. 

In a teleconference Friday morning, Cuomo said every school district in the state has managed to keep infection rates low enough to offer in-person learning in the fall. 

“By our infection rates, all schools can open,” he said. “Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established, which is just great news.”

Now, it will be up to New York state's 749 school districts to decide what their individual reopenings will look like, Cuomo said. Of the 749 districts, 127 still haven’t submitted plans to the state’s Department of Health, while 50 districts have submitted incomplete plans, he said. Districts will not be able to reopen if their plans aren't approved by the department.

School districts will also be required to do the following before they can reopen, Cuomo said: 

  • Post their remote learning plans and their testing/tracing plan online
  • Set dates for three to five discussion sessions with parents and community members before Aug. 21
  • Have at least one separate discussion with teachers alone

“Parents must have the opportunity to be heard, and the school should welcome the opportunity to explain the plan,” Cuomo said. Teachers must also have a say in their own districts' reopening plans, he added.

If New York sees a dramatic spike in infection rates as September approaches, the state could revisit Friday's decision, he noted.

“Again, we’re going to watch the infection rate between now and the day that schools open,” he said. “If there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, we can revisit it.”

School districts will have the "flexibility" to decide whether to delay their reopenings or revamp their plans as needed, he said. Mayor Bill de Blasio, for one, has said New York City’s schools will not reopen for in-person learning unless the city’s COVID-19 infection rate remains below 3 percent.

Cuomo on Friday also said masks will be mandatory in schools whenever social distancing isn't possible. If a student does not have a mask, the school district must provide one.

Cuomo reported five new COVID-19 deaths and 714 new cases on Friday. The state currently has a 1.0 percent positivity rate. As of Thursday, 579 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 139 of whom were in intensive care units and 66 of whom were on ventilators, he said.

The governor noted that New York state currently has "the best infection situation in the country."

"If any state can do it, this state can do it," he said of the reopenings. "Because we’ve been smart from day one."