Cuomo pushes back on plan to close NYC schools when coronavirus positivity rate hits 3%

Dave Goldiner and Denis Slattery, New York Daily News
·2 min read

Gov. Cuomo said Saturday that New York City should “seriously consider” keeping public schools open even if the positive rate on coronavirus tests citywide hits 3% as expected in coming days or weeks.

The governor, floating a targeted closure approach, argued that school-specific testing of students and staffers has presented new data into the equation and should be taken into account as Mayor de Blasio suggests the possibility of ending all in-person learning.

“If the school has a much lower rate, the school is not part of the problem,” Cuomo said. “You could argue that keeping kids in the schools is part of the solution.”

New York City authorities came up with the 3% figure, which applies to the city’s the seven-day average positivity rate for COVID-19, in the summer to mandate school closures as a way of removing what the governor himself called the possibility of political interference with public health.

The number falls well below the 9% ceiling Cuomo set for state mandated closures, but the governor said the city and state now have a more sophisticated and extensive testing program, which he says allows authorities to track the spread of COVID-19 in a more precise way.

“I would add a second calculus. it’s safer and provides more intelligent data. New York City should seriously consider that," he said. “Because if the school is not spreading the virus, or if the school has a much lower positivity rate than the surrounding area, then the school is not part of the problem.

"And you could argue keeping the children in the school is part of the solution rather than the children spending time on the street in the neighborhood where the infection rate is higher,” he added.

Cuomo, while acknowledging he can override any decision de Blasio makes regarding closures, said targeted shutdowns similar to his “micro-cluster” approach would require parents and teachers to be on board.

De Blasio maintained Saturday that city public schools would close if the city’s overall positivity rate hit 3%. Cuomo said he spoke to the mayor but did not reveal what his reaction was.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and positive test rates continue to rise across New York.

Cuomo announced 5,388 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the state Friday. More than 1,788 New Yorkers were hospitalized and 24 people died.

Those numbers remain much lower than other states and are still far below what New York state endured in the early days of the pandemic. But they have risen significantly in recent days and weeks.

New York’s statewide positivity rate is at 2.92%.

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