Cuomo says schools reopening will be determined by regional metric

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Whether public schools may reopen in the fall will be determined in part on whether the region they’re in has kept the rate of new COVID-19 infections low, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The decisions will first be made the week of Aug. 1 through Aug. 7. Schools will be given the go-ahead to reopen then if their respective region is in phase four of reopening, which all parts of upstate New York are in already, and the daily infection rate remains 5 percent or lower over the previous 14 days.

If the rate of infections goes to 9 percent or higher on a seven-day rolling average, schools will have to close in-person teaching.

Cuomo did not specify at his briefing in Albany whether the rate will be determined by a region’s rate of tests that turn out positive for COVID-19 or some other measure, such as the rate of new infections per 100,000 residents, with are both tracked and reported online now.

The state Education Department is also developing guidelines to help schools if the decision to reopen in person is made. Specifics will be left to local school districts using the state guidelines, Cuomo said.

The testing-rate measure is part of basing the reopening decision on data, not politics, Cuomo said.

“We’re not going to use our children as the litmus test and we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered,” Cuomo said.

“We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

Cuomo also announced that people arriving at airports in the state from states where infection rates are rising will have to fill out a form giving their contact-tracing information. Leaving an airport without doing so could result in being fined up to $2,000 and being subject to a 14-day quarantine.

It’s to reduce the likelihood of New York having its progress fighting the pandemic reversed by people bringing it in from other states, Cuomo said. He also renewed his call on local governments to enforce mask wearing and distancing rules and said this is particularly a problem in New York City and Long Island.

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