NEW YORK — There will be no on-site summer school for students in grades kindergarten through 12 this year, only more distance learning from home, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
He also said it’s too early to make a decision on whether K-12 schools can resume normal in-person operation when the new school year starts in September.
Cuomo said in his daily brief that the state in June will issue guidelines for proposals the state’s school districts must make for how to reopen. The districts will submit those plans to the state in July, then the state will review and either approve or reject them.
Sometime during the summer, the state will assess the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on New York, and then determine whether public schools statewide can safely hold what are essentially tens of thousands of mass gatherings each day.
The health risks posed by placing dozens of students in close quarters in classrooms, cafeterias and buses during a pandemic led to the wholesale shift from in-school education to at-home distance learning this spring.
“Summer school is not going to open statewide for in-class teaching,” Cuomo said during the briefing, delivered from Manhattan. “It will be through distance learning, and meal programs and child care services for essential employees will continue. In terms of opening up school for the fall, it's still too early to make that determination.”
There also has been no decision if summer camps will be allowed to open this year.
Part of the uncertainty is the changing body of knowledge surrounding the COVID-19 virus, Cuomo said. Initially, it was believed that people with antibodies from past exposure were safe from future infection. Now experts aren’t sure. Initially it appeared children were largely spared the worst effects of the virus. Now there are a small but growing number of children who appear to have developed severe inflammatory disorders as a result.
“New York State Department of Health was the first to really investigate this,” Cuomo said. “The more they investigated, the more cases they found.
“When you're talking about schools and you're talking about children and you're talking about density, exploring the situation and making sure that this is not a widespread situation affecting children.”
New York state is now investigating 157 possible instances of this condition, he said, and an increasing number of other states and countries are conducting investigations of their own.
Locally, Albany Medical Center said Thursday it has back-tracked to Feb. 1 and identified 12 young patients who match the profile Cuomo discussed, but only two are known to have been COVID-positive. Through the course of the pandemic, Albany Med has admitted very few pediatric COVID patients, its top executives have said.
Meanwhile Thursday, Albany Med reached a milestone: It discharged the last of the COVID patients it had accepted from overwhelmed New York City hospitals during the height of the pandemic.
It’s down to 44 inpatients with confirmed COVID infections, 31 of them residents of nursing homes or other group facilities, many of whom have recovered sufficiently to be discharged but cannot be sent back to a nursing home due to directives Cuomo recently imposed to slow the spread of the virus in nursing homes, where thousands of residents have been killed.
The Capital Region recorded two more deaths Thursday, both in nursing homes, one in Albany County and one in Warren County. Regionwide, 108 COVID patients were hospitalized, 16 of them in intensive care units.
Statewide, 49,219 people were tested for COVID on Wednesday and 2,088 new positives were recorded. The cumulative total since March 1 stood at 1.56 million New Yorkers tested, 356,458 positive and 23,083 deceased.
- Cuomo urged workers to report their employers by calling the state Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 if their employers aren’t providing protective gear or requiring social distancing. This opens an employer up to enforcement action by local authorities.
- Asked by a reporter if the state would attempt to limit visits by nonresidents now that its pandemic is on the wane — just as some other states shunned New Yorkers when New York was surging with infection — Cuomo said the state likely does not have that authority but would monitor the situation.
- Asked how Connecticut could open bars and restaurants while New York is not — the two states and several others are collaborating on measures to control the pandemic — Cuomo said cooperation and collaboration do not mean uniformity. “We don’t have uniformity across our own state.”
- Asked about a Columbia University report that 54,000 fewer people would have died by May 2 if the nation started social distancing measures just two weeks earlier, Cuomo said if anything the report understated the effect of letting the virus get such a big head start. “If this country knew more and knew it earlier, I think we could have saved many, many more lives,” he said.