NY to discuss reopening school; virus cases 'low and stable'

ALBANY, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) — New York education officials are set to begin outlining what will need to be done to reopen schools as Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state has maintained a “low and stable” number of people testing positive for coronavirus.

The state Education Department is scheduled to present a framework for the long-awaited reopening guidance to the Board of Regents on Monday, with the full guidance to come later.

The framework incorporates feedback gathered through four meetings of a reopening task force convened after the coronavirus pandemic forced school buildings closed in March.

Districts throughout the country have since debated when and how to reopen, mapping out plans for social distancing in classrooms and school buses and weighing whether to require teachers and students to wear face coverings.

With new coronavirus cases on the rise throughout the country, several districts in other states have announced plans to continue distance learning online, either exclusively or as part of a mix that includes limited in-person classes.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week announced such a hybrid plan for the nation's largest district that would put most students inside their physical schools just two or three days a week. Schools can’t accommodate all their students and maintain safe social distancing, he said.

Cuomo, however, said it is up to him to decide whether the state's approximately 700 school districts can open at all. The Democrat has instructed districts to submit plans for reopening by July 31 and said state officials will decide in the first week of August whether to accept the plans — and whether schools will reopen in the fall at all.

New York reported five coronavirus deaths on Sunday, matching an all-time low number for the state, but Cuomo said the rising number of cases elsewhere is concerning.

“Today's numbers remain low and stable, but it is up to us to keep it that way,” Cuomo said in a written statement, urging people to wear masks and socially distance.

State health officials are monitoring an uptick in cases in Rensselaer County, which they said could be linked to several people who tested positive for the virus after returning from Georgia. The county posted 23 new cases Sunday.

Statewide, more than 800 people were hospitalized with the virus, at least 100 who were on ventilators. As of Sunday, New York's coronavirus death toll was at 24,979