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Cuomo warns that some K-12 schools will be forced to close as “inevitable” virus clusters develop

By Adam Rombel (arombel@cnybj.com)

Date:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a press briefing on Long Island on Aug. 24. (Photo credit: Darren McGee - Office of the Governor)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned on a Monday conference call with reporters that it’s unavoidable that coronavirus cases will increase in some places when K-12 schools reopen and that this will lead to some schools closing and returning to remote learning.

“It is inevitable that when you bring a concentration of people together, the viral transmission is going to go up. The question will become, like on colleges, how well did that administration actually enforce compliance and what was their parameter for number of students infected before the school takes quarantine measures, goes to remote learning,” he said.

The governor noted that the SUNY Oneonta COVID-19 outbreak is instructive even though colleges and K-12 schools are different. More than 100 people have been infected so far after a series of on-campus parties helped fuel the spread. That led to new SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announcing a two-week suspension of in-person instruction at the SUNY Oneonta campus to help address the cluster.

“I believe colleges are the canary in the coal mine. What we’re seeing with colleges, I think is going to be replicated on K-12. I think you will see schools, school districts reopen,” Cuomo said. “I think they will have plans; the plans will say, they’re going to test this percent and this percent and this percent. The school district will say here are our compliance measures. If they are not followed, you will see students come back. You will see students get infected. You will see the transmission rate go up and then you will see schools closed.”

The governor said “some of that is inevitable” with 700 school districts across the state. School districts will face some difficult decisions, but the state and local governments also could step in to close schools if needed, Cuomo explained.

 So, “school districts would be well-advised to look at what’s happening in colleges. Colleges have a somewhat more complicated situation, I understand that. You have more socialization on the college campuses, but the basic dynamic is the same and you will see it replicated. So don’t be shocked when we get to September and school districts say, ‘we’re starting with in-person and the in-person will have a percentage of testing’ and then schools wind up going to remote or cancelling certain classes, etc. That is going to happen,” the governor practically guaranteed.

Separately, New York on Monday announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations and the number of ICU patients have dropped to new lows, 418 and 109, respectively — numbers last seen in mid-March. One person died from COVID-19 in the last day, the state’s lowest single-day death toll.

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