(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday all state schools would stay closed for the rest of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic, even as hospitalizations and the daily death toll fell to their lowest levels in more than a month.
Cuomo said he did not think schools were ready to reopen and ordered them to come up with a plan to keep their buildings clean and limit outbreaks, with a decision on whether children might attend summer classes due by the end of this month.
The order, unveiled at a daily briefing on the coronavirus, includes the New York City public school system, the nation’s largest, with more than one million students, and colleges.
In neighboring New Jersey, where students have been placed on “remote learning” at least through May 15, Governor Phil Murphy told reporters on Friday that he would decide by early next week whether to allow classes to resume in schools. Either way, Murphy has said that he will not shorten the state-mandated 180-day school year.
Cuomo said just figuring out how to serve lunch in New York school cafeterias would require a mammoth effort that would have to be put together within weeks, at the risk of students getting sick and carrying the virus home.
“To say, ‘We’re going to figure out that plan and put it in place in the next few weeks’ is virtually impossible,” Cuomo said. “We don’t think it’s possible to do that in a way that keeps our children safe.”
Cuomo said a decision on a possible reopening in the fall would come later because “the fall is a long time away.”
The Democratic governor said 289 people died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Thursday, down from 306 a day earlier. It was the lowest death toll since March 29. Hospitalizations also fell to their lowest level in more than one month.
“The enemy is on the run, the virus is reducing,” Cuomo said.
(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)