ALBANY (TNS) — If COVID-19 is well controlled, schools in New York should push to reopen five days a week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
“The local governments should be aggressive on in-class teaching unless there’s a community or school that has an infection spike. That is different,” Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany. “But if the school doesn’t have an infection spike and if the school is safer than the surrounding community, then why isn’t the school open five days a week?
“Well, the teachers have concerns. Legitimate. Get the teachers a vaccination. Vaccinate teachers. Reopen schools.”
Schools across New York have been operating a variety of learning schedules since the academic year began in September. Many run a hybrid model, with different groups of students attending a portion of each week and then learning remotely the rest of the time.
Some districts have been fully remote since March.
Cuomo said he respects local governments and their role in running districts, but he made clear today he wants to see kids back in classrooms.
He also said he appreciates teachers’ worries about COVID. That’s why local officials should prioritize getting them vaccinated.
“Students deserve in-class teaching,” Cuomo said. “This remote learning is a poor substitute for in-class teaching.
“Students deserve it. The parents need it. You’re not going to reopen the economy without parents having children in school so parents can go on with their life and work.”
Remote learning makes education less fair, Cuomo added. Poor and minority kids are more likely to suffer since there’s a greater chance they lack computers, internet access and adults who can help them during the school day.
The governor also said visits at New York nursing homes will restart after months of limitations due to the pandemic, although he did not give a date.
The state first barred nursing home visits in March as the pandemic began to take hold.
The state Health Department will now allow visits in accordance with federal guidance, Cuomo said.
The department recommends visitors take a rapid test before entering any facility, he added. The department will provide rapid tests for nursing homes in the state at no cost.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in New York fell 279 on Thursday to 6,155. Hospitalizations in the state have been falling since climbing over 9,000 at times in January.
A total of 1,199 people were in New York intensive care units with the coronavirus yesterday, down 59, and 834 were intubated, down 29.
The statewide percentage of people testing positive for the virus on Thursday was 3.49%. The statewide positive test rate’s seven-day average dropped to 3.6%, its 42nd straight day of declines.
Another 116 people died due to COVID in New York yesterday, which brings the statewide death toll to 37,675.
“We like to think that we’re past this or we’re getting past this,” Cuomo said. “And we are getting past it. But it is still dangerous my friends and remember that.”
New deaths have fallen from over 200 on Jan. 13, but remain far above levels seen during the summer and early fall. The daily total then was often in the single digits.
The number of new COVID cases the state is finding each day also remains higher than the summer and early fall, although New York is conducting far more tests now.
The state confirmed 8,710 new cases of the virus on Thursday and reported another 249,248 test results. New York has now had 1,564,483 confirmed COVID cases since the pandemic began.