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Cuomo: School reopening decision will be made on region-by-region basis

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on May 27. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is expected to announce this week whether he will permit schools to open for live in-person instruction this fall, said Thursday the decision will be made on a region-by-region basis.

“The situation is very different across the state, because regions are in different positions … and parents and teachers have different opinions,” he said in a telephonic conference call with reporters.

“Our decisions will be region by region, just analogize this to the economic reopenings,” as different parts of the state were able to bring back certain activities over time and based on their coronavirus infection levels, he said.

Long Island is its own region under the state’s coronavirus plan, made up of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

There will be no nuances within regions, Cuomo said. If a region is shut down for education, all schools must close, both public and private, regardless of size and social distancing protocols.

Cuomo said there is a broad range of opinion about the reopening among teachers and parents, with some resisting in-person instruction and others pushing for it.

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“You have a spectrum of opinion,” he said. “You have parents who want more in school" and some all remote classes. "There’s no unified parent position.”

The governor added that it is critical school districts speak with parents about their plans.

"The parents … will decide whether or not they are going to send their child and if the parents are going to be the final determination, the parents have to be included in this discussion," Cuomo said. "If the teachers say, ‘I’m not coming back,’ or the parents say, ‘I’m not sending my child,’ then whatever the school district says is irrelevant."

He has previously said he will order schools to reopen if the infection level is 5% or lower now, and no more than 9% by the time school starts. New York State’s level, along with Long Island’s, has been hovering around 1% for weeks.

But he warned that with the virus spread increasing around the country, the infection could spread here and increase New York’s transmission rate, delaying school openings or even causing a new shutdown.

NY 'almost an island' on virus spread

Coronavirus indicators in the state remained relatively good, Cuomo said, with 0.97% of people tested confirmed positive for the virus in results from Wednesday. Some 703 people were confirmed positive, out of 72,370 tested.

The positive level on Long Island was 1%, and in New York City 1.1%. The number of new positive cases was 52 in Nassau, 77 in Suffolk, and 333 in New York City.

Three people died Wednesday of coronavirus-related causes in the state, while 576 people were hospitalized, including 132 in ICU and 69 intubated, he said.

“Incredibly all the numbers in New York are very good, even though around us we see the virus spreading,” Cuomo said. “New York State is almost an island in the United States, where our numbers are still holding because we work at it every day.”

The state is continuing enforcement actions to ensure compliance with coronavirus regulations at businesses, mainly restaurants and bars. But he said local governments should step up efforts to help, and requesting voluntary compliance is not enough.

“I need the local governments to be of more assistance with compliance and the enforcement of compliance," Cuomo said. "I need local governments to be more active in enforcement compliance. Not informational efforts, we don’t need to hand out brochures … It’s enforcing the compliance, not informing the compliance.”

The State Liquor Authority and State Police handed out 26 more violations Wednesday night, including two in Nassau and three in Suffolk, he said.

NYC: Up to $10,000 quarantine fines

New York City may issue fines of up to $10,000 to people failing to comply with a self-quarantine order as it implements checkpoints at bridges and tunnels looking for travelers coming from states with high levels of coronavirus infection, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

He said the city doesn’t want to levy fines but would do so if necessary.

“It has to become clear that this is serious business, and it comes with consequences,” he said, adding: “most people, just, if they’re reminded, and you stay in touch, they do follow the rules. Really, most people do. But for those who don’t, we’re going to have to start showing the consequences.”

Officials stopped 47 vehicles at the first checkpoint Wednesday — the program's first day — at the Goethals Bridge, which connects Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Staten Island, between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., de Blasio spokeswoman Laura Feyer said.

“Everyone was very cooperative, and there were no issues,” she said. “We expect larger numbers soon."

The mayor also said that starting Thursday, members of the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit will be at Penn Station to remind travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico that they must complete health forms to assist contact tracing efforts. Those who haven't completed the forms will be asked to fill them out on the spot, officials said.

"It's time for everyone to realize that if we're going to hold at this level of health and safety in this city and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who's traveled," de Blasio said Wednesday. "So, this checkpoint effort is going to be a new, important piece of that."

One-fifth of all new COVID-19 cases in the city are found in people who have recently traveled from other states, said Dr. Ted Long, head of the city Test & Trace Corps.

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