ALBANY — New York schools are on track to return to full in-person learning next autumn, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
That’s more than three months away, and the situation could change, but if the current downward trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in New York, “There is no reason why we can’t open schools statewide in September,” he said.
“Our children lost so much as COVID struck our state. A year of socialization, a year of memories, and even more,” he added.
Another question is mandatory vaccination for the children attending those schools.
The governor told reporters that idea is still being discussed, and is controversial because a sizable portion of the population is hesitant or outright opposed to vaccination.
Some parents who took their children out of public schools when the state mandated measles vaccination still haven’t re-enrolled them, Cuomo said.
Statewide, the positive COVID test rate is down to 0.9% on a seven-day average, the COVID hospital census is down to 1,305 and 63.7% of the adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
Only 44.1% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, however, meaning the state is a long way from herd immunity — the point at which enough people are vaccinated or have recovered from the disease that it is no longer able to easily spread among the populace.
Nationwide, only 39.3% of Americans have been fully vaccinated.
As an incentive, Cuomo announced that everyone vaccinated Monday through May 31 will get a free two-day pass to any New York state park, and that 15 of the parks would host popup vaccination sites.
One of the most highly vaccinated places in New York is Schenectady County, which on Monday moved into first place for adult vaccination: 74.6% of these 18 or older have now received at least one dose of vaccine.
Schenectady County Public Health Services has mounted, and maintained, a campaign to reach community members by enlisting community leaders to spread the message, then taking the vaccine to clinics dispersed within the community.
In a news release, County Legislator Sara Mae Pratt said: “This is exciting news for our community and we want to thank our dedicated public health staff and volunteers for all of their efforts, as well as the residents of Schenectady County who took the steps necessary to get vaccinated to help keep our friends, family and neighbors safe and healthy.”
For total population, including those younger than 18, Schenectady County has the third-highest rate among the state’s counties, with 61.2% of residents having received at least one dose of vaccine. On this metric, Schenectady County trails Tompkins and Hamilton counties, at 64.8% and 65.7%, respectively.
Also Monday, the state backed off the directive issued last week that children as young as 2 years old start wearing masks in day care settings for the first time in the pandemic. That move went against the grain of a steady string of loosening restrictions, and drew bipartisan criticism.
“This is an absurdity and the latest embarrassing Albany overreach from King Cuomo,” said state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon.
“It is, quite frankly, absurd and contradictory,” said state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties.
The revised state Department of Health guidance issued Monday said children 2 and older should be encouraged to wear masks in childcare or day camp settings but those not yet in kindergarten do not need to do so.
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