ALBANY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that schools and colleges in the state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. In the interim, distance learning, lunches, and child care provided by schools will continue as they prepare to try to reopen in the fall.
“We have 4.2 million students in this state,” Cuomo said. “And planning for reopening is going to be a real exercise.”
The governor said a decision on summer school will be made by the end of this month. But he called on schools to begin planning for the fall now, redesigning the school day to incorporate social distancing guidelines. He said the alternative, trying to reopen schools on a regional basis by creating a plan in the next few weeks, is virtually impossible.
“You have thirty kids in a class room. With social distancing you can only put ten kids in a classroom. So you need two more classrooms and two more teachers. And how about the cafeteria? Figure it out in a few weeks? I can't.”
A final decision on reopening in the fall will be made later. “Fall is a long time away,” he said.
As two groups of protesters rallied outside the Capitol, one calling for a full reopening of the state and another calling for the state to stay closed down and cancel all rents, the governor said, “I get their political opinions. I get their arguments. This is not a political decision.”
Cuomo said the number of virus cases appears to have hit another plateau, holding at about a thousand new cases a day and over 300 dead.
“That's still too high. We have to drill down now and figure out who these people are, and why they're getting the virus so we can design a more targeted response.”
He said hospitals will be asked to provide the state with more detailed information about any new cases, including a patient's address, occupation, whether they're essential workers or were staying at home, underlying health issues and any other information that may help determine where the new cases are coming from.
The governor also said mental health services are being expanded.
“One half of all Americans say their mental health is being negatively impacted,” he said.
He reiterated the availability of confidential services available either through the state hotline at 844-863-9314 or online at headspace.com/ny.
Cuomo said the state is now offering new mental health services specifically for essential workers, and making insurers drop any co-pays, cost-shares or deductibles for those services.
Cuomo also noted that domestic violence reports were up 15% in March, and up 30% in April in New York. A confidential hotline for anyone who needs help is available at 844-997-2121.
Asked about regional business reopenings and the conflict with a statewide school shutdown, the governor admitted there could be some problems. He said any decisions about summer camps would coincide with regional reopening plans. Those plans are expected to be announced by the end of the current shutdown deadline of May 15.
Cuomo was also asked about concerns from grocery store workers about customers shopping without masks in violation of state policy.
“If I'm a private grocery store owner,” he said, “I'd deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask.”
At one point, Cuomo was asked to evaluate his own handling of the public health crisis.
“I tried my best,” he said.