All public school districts in the state will reopen for in-person learning in September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, limiting remote classes for the 2021-22 academic year as the state’s daily COVID-19 infection rate nears 1% for the first time since last year.
The state’s coronavirus positivity rate has declined for 49 days straight, with 929 new virus cases reported Monday — the first day fewer than 1,000 infections were identified in the state since Oct. 18.
“With the way our COVID numbers are currently trending, there is no reason why our students should not get back to in-person learning as usual and we look forward to welcoming them back,” Cuomo said Monday during a coronavirus briefing on Long Island. “September is relatively a long way away, and we follow the science we follow the data and as you’ve been following it, we’re not at an all-time low, but we’re under 1%.”
A COVID-19 mutation or variant that changes the state’s infection, hospitalization and death rate could impact the decision in the coming months, the governor said.
“If there is a change in the trajectory of the virus, we will revisit the decision.”
Virus hospitalizations declined 30 patients to 1,305 New Yorkers on Monday — the lowest figure since Nov. 4.
The state’s seven-day coronavirus positivity dipped to 0.90%.
New York City holds the state’s lowest daily COVID positivity rate at 0.69%.
The Capital Region’s infection rate remains flat at about 1.10%. New infections in the Finger Lakes region continued to decline Monday to 2.34% down from 2.44% Friday.
New virus cases in Western New York dropped to 1.49% Monday, down from 1.59% on Friday.
In the North Country, cases remain flat at 1.45% positive.
“Educators know that being in person is the best way for students to learn and for teachers to teach,” New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said in a statement Monday. “We support offering full-time in-person instruction five days a week and await formal guidance for the fall on how districts, working with educators and parents, should craft their plans to bring all students back to the classroom.”
Cuomo’s announcement early Monday afternoon came a few hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said all city schools would reopen to in-person learning in September.
“Our children lost so much as COVID struck our state — a year of socialization, a year of memories and even more,” Cuomo said, adding remote learning impacted poor and minority households that lacked proper internet or technology.
“While teachers and school administrators did an incredible job pivoting to remote learning with virtually zero notice, there’s no denying the discrimination students who did not have the right equipment faced,” he said. “...It was the best that we could do in a bad situation, but by no stretch of the imagination is remote learning a substitute for in-class participation.”
State Education Department officials hope as many students as possible will attend school in person this fall, they said in a statement Tuesday morning.
"We are having conversations on these issues with stakeholders and will continue to work with our partners across the state to ensure that we have the most up to date and reliable information possible to guide all decisions related to educating our students during the pandemic recovery," according to a statement from the department.
Fourteen New Yorkers died from COVID complications Sunday, reflecting a flat daily fatality rate over the last week. The state’s virus fatality rate, new infections and deaths has steadily declined from hundreds of deaths each day since January after the holiday season.
The state reports at least 42,608 New Yorkers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 complications to date.
*Editor's note: This story includes an updated statement from the state Education Department.