NEW YORK — Parents and caregivers of school-age children can monitor the number of students and staff infected with COVID-19 when classes resume this week as the state launches an additional coronavirus tracker Wednesday.
The state’s new public coronavirus interactive tool, dubbed the COVID-19 Report Card, will track virus infections and testing results in each of the state’s 713 school districts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared an executive order Tuesday requiring each school, local health department, labs and testing sites to report daily coronavirus data to the state Health Department to be included on the new tracker.
“I think this will give parents confidence and give teachers confidence,” Cuomo said during a pandemic briefing Tuesday in his Manhattan office. “They will know on a day-to-day basis what is happening. They won’t be reliant on the information from the school district or anyone else.
“This is an entirely new enterprise in an entirely new world ... There has to be public disclosure of the fact to inform a parent of the risk they’re taking.”
The tool, known as a dashboard, will include positive COVID-19 cases of students, faculty and staff by date, the number of students and staff on-site, the percent of positive cases on-site, the number of diagnostic tests, type of test, the lab used and expected result lag time and the date of last data submission, or update.
“Every school district has to report to the Department of Health as to how many tests were taken, what type of tests were taken and what were the results. ... The daily report card how is the school doing on implementing their plan,” the governor said. “The state will maintain it.”
Essential workers at the state’s 800-plus coronavirus testing sites must ask each person between 4 and 18 years old what school they attend to help ensure schools are complying with state-approved testing plans, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said.
“Even if not mandated by a school, we’ll know existence of COVID in those schools,” she added.
The tracker will ease the worries of parents and teachers, said Cuomo, adding he’s received thousands of phone calls from concerned parents and school faculty about changing district reopening plans. Each school was mandated to submit a detailed reopening plan, including how often and when a district will test students and staff, to resume in-person classroom instruction.
“Plans are only as good as your ability to implement a plan,” the governor said. “The parents and teachers are confused and they’re anxious ... are [schools] actually following up on the plan and doing something?
“I’m going to be darn sure the plan is smart, they can do the plan and then I want to know if they’re actually implementing the plan. That’s where we are.”
Visitors type in their home address to identify their school district and select their specific school to find all reported positives, a breakdown of testing and results for students and teachers, and the current enrollment. The dashboard will feature seven-day trend charts so visitors can track results over time, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“It’s but a simple website — even I could use it,” the governor joked.
To access the schools dashboard, visit schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov.
The interactive site will accompany the state Health Department’s COVID-19 tracker at covid19tracker.health.ny.gov.
The state’s travel advisory requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for two weeks broadened to 35 states Tuesday. Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia meet the metrics to qualify for the state’s advisory, which includes any area with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or an area with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were removed from the list.
Cuomo attributed multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at dozens of state colleges to out-of-staters entering New York after students returned to classes over the last two weeks.
“You have students coming from those states to the colleges ... and then they go out to party and they wind up spreading the virus,” the governor said.
Cuomo announced a new Health Department regulation Tuesday requiring any college that has more than 100 COVID-19 cases within a two-week period to report the outbreak to the department.
“If they go over 100, the school could be closed down to do remote learning,” Cuomo said. “It is going to happen. One-hundred cases can happen very easily. ... we see a cluster in a school, we’re going to come in.
“I’m not going to allow a cluster — that’s what I’m saying to colleges. You have all your protocols — that’s nice — but once you hit 100, that’s when we step in.”
As many as 108 colleges nationwide have reported more than 100 new coronavirus cases each, including outbreaks at Cornell University, Colgate University, Hofstra University and SUNY Oneonta, Oswego, Fredonia and Buffalo.
SUNY Oneonta was closed for the fall semester late last week after more than 450 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
New cases are largely tied to parties and congregations of students socializing.
“This is going to be a problem, I’m telling you that,” Cuomo said. “You have people coming from around the country and around the world to these colleges. Young people going back to college ... some students, unlike myself, wanted to socialize. Some come back to college and say ‘I want to see my friends, I want to enjoy libations, we want to go to a bar,’ — those situations are increasing the spread.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned is just anticipate what’s happening and be ready for it.”
The governor has had multiple discussions with college presidents across the state, he said, to encourage administrators to enforce state coronavirus mandates to reduce the spread of the disease. Cuomo repeated his suggestion for officials to place the blame on him when students complain.
“College presidents say, ‘It’s hard for me to say no to parties,’” the governor recalled. “Yeah, I get it. Do it in my name ... say, ‘Gov. Cuomo orders you all to disperse immediately.’ Blame me. I’ve said that from day one. Blame me.”
The state’s rate of new COVID-19 infections remained under 1% for the 32nd straight day at 0.96% positive Tuesday — or 557 additional coronavirus cases after 88,981 tests Wednesday.
Hospitalizations remained flat at 432 patients Tuesday.
Five New Yorkers died from the virus Monday in state hospitals, down from nine fatalities each Saturday and Sunday.