As the city’s coronavirus infection rate continues to increase, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested Saturday that schools don’t need to close if the virus isn’t spreading in classrooms.
Under the current guidelines, schools will close if the city’s infection rate hits 3%. But Cuomo said this rule should be reconsidered, now that a testing system is in place to identify if schools are safe.
“Add to your calculus a positivity rate in the school. 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 can argue keeping the children in the school is part of the solution,” said Cuomo. “If a school is now under 1% and you know that because now you test in the schools, wouldn't you rather the student in the 1% school than the 3% street?”
The state has the authority to add this factor to school closure guidelines, but Cuomo said he wants the city, parents and teachers to ultimately make the decision. Before schools reopened in September, the mayor implemented the 3% threshold as a way to reassure parents and the teachers union that his administration was serious about keeping them safe. The governor added that a lot has changed since then, with tests showing the positivity rate in the city school system is well below 1%.
“I know you all agreed to this and you all had webinars and discussions,” he said. “But something has changed in the interim, and with COVID, facts change and when facts change maybe conclusions should change.”
The mayor on Friday said that schools could close as early as Monday if the infection rate continued to increase and brought the seven-day positivity rate to 3%.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is now 2.47%, down from 2.83% on Friday.
The mayor’s office said the daily positivity rate also dropped, but added that number will go up as more data comes in throughout the afternoon. The increase is not expected to bring the seven-day average above 3%.
“We’re still below 3%, but that could change. We MUST fight back a second wave and keep our schools open,” the mayor tweeted Saturday.
Meanwhile, conversations with northeast governors on coronavirus policy that could lead to new restrictions will continue through the weekend as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and in New York.
"They're going to be going on all weekend," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a conference call on Saturday. "There's numerous topics that we're dealing with. Part of it is looking at the information and where it's going."