ALBANY — New York will unveil an additional public coronavirus interactive tool in the coming days that will track COVID-19 diagnostic tests across schools statewide as in-person classes prepare to resume next week.
The tool, known as a dashboard, will accompany the state Health Department’s COVID-19 tracker, at covid19tracker.health.ny.gov, starting Sept. 9.
The state’s dashboard has listed new cases and fatalities in each of the state’s 62 counties for several months. The tracker also includes confirmed coronavirus fatalities in adult-care facilities and nursing homes statewide.
The state’s 713 public school districts each submitted plans to the state Health Department and Empire State Development last month on how they will safely reopen buildings to in-person learning or instruction as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Schools detailed how they would enforce students to wear masks and remain socially distanced, or 6 feet from others, and how many students, faculty and staff a district plans to test each week.
“Those plans are only as good as their implementation,” Cuomo said Thursday during a call with reporters. “Parents and teachers are obviously concerned about schools reopening, and they should be.”
The state’s Health Department’s additional dashboard, at forward.ny.gov/dashboard-covid-19-data-schools, will monitor a school’s COVID-19 diagnostic tests and their results, or new positive cases in the district.
State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to all school districts Thursday informing them of the reporting requirements and the new tool.
Districts must provide a link to the daily dashboard on school websites.
Schools must send their testing report to the state and their local health departments every day, Cuomo said.
“That information will be posted online as soon as we get it,” the governor said. “Parents and teachers will know how many tests were conducted and what the results of those tests are.”
The dashboard will hold districts accountable, and prove they are following the testing guidelines approved by state officials.
“Hopefully, that will give parents and teachers some confidence,” Cuomo said. “If the plans aren’t being implemented, we want to know that. If there’s a problem, the sooner you find out about the problem, the better.”
The dashboard announcement comes on the heels of a COVID-19 outbreak at SUNY Oneonta.
Oneonta students were just two weeks into their fall semester before getting the news they’ll be going home to finish the semester virtually after nearly 400 coronavirus cases were confirmed at the Otsego County college.
School President Barbara Jean Morris announced in a letter to students Thursday that newly-appointed SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras would visit the campus that afternoon to direct the college to develop and implement a plan to send on-campus students home and cease in-person classroom instruction, as well as activities, for the remainder of the fall semester.
“While this is sudden news and something no one wanted, the risk to our campus and Oneonta community is too great,” Morris said in the letter. “I know the vast majority of our students have been diligent in protecting our campus since day one. We committed to do everything we could to mitigate this situation, and today, that means ending residential housing for this semester.”
SUNY Oneonta students who tested negative for COVID-19 will be asked to sign up for a move-out time between Friday, Sept. 4, and Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.
Students who wish to remain on campus must request permission.
Cuomo also gave an update Thursday on the state's approach to a coronavirus vaccine.
President Donald Trump has said a coronavirus vaccine could be ready in October or early November, or before voters head to the polls. Election Day is Nov. 3.
“The CDC is talking about a vaccine in early November — how convenient,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to be an Election-Day miracle drug.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the 79-year-old head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said timelines for the COVID-19 injection are “guesstimates,” and the rollout is more likely to take place in November or December, rather than October.
“It is conceivable that you could have it by October, though, I don’t think that that’s likely,” Fauci said Thursday.
The state Health Department will review any research or protocols Centers for Disease Control & Prevention releases about the vaccine before recommending New Yorkers receive it.
“Some people are concerned that the vaccine may wind up being hydroxychloroquine,” Cuomo said. “Before we recommend that New Yorkers take a vaccine, the state Department of Health will be reviewing all the protocols and research by the FDA and whatever federal authorities say it’s safe and effective.”
The state’s rate of new COVID-19 infections remained under 1% for the 27th straight day at 0.99% positive Thursday — or 898 additional coronavirus cases after 88,981 tests Wednesday.
Hospitalizations declined to 430 patients Thursday.
Seven New Yorkers died from the virus statewide Wednesday — up from five Tuesday.
Tribune News Service contributed to this story.