ALBANY – New York is still not ready to close schools for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
At his daily coronavirus briefing, Cuomo said reopening school buildings throughout the state before the end of the academic year in June would be a "very, very big undertaking."
But Cuomo said calling off the rest of the school year would be a tacit admission that nonessential businesses would also remain closed through June, which the Democratic governor said he's unwilling to do at this point.
“When you say you’re not going to open schools, you may as well say you’re not going to open businesses because they two are connected," Cuomo said. "I don’t know how you open businesses without opening school. You want me to go to work? Hallelujah. What do I do with my kids?"
Cuomo continued: "To say we’re not going to open businesses until June, I’m not there yet. I don’t think anybody is there yet."
As of Wednesday, New York had 15,302 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and more than 250,000 confirmed cases, far more than any other state in the country.
Last week, Cuomo announced schools would remain closed through at least May 15 as the novel coronavirus continues its spread through the state.
But neighboring Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have closed their school buildings for the rest of the academic year.
Cuomo has repeatedly said it's important for neighboring states to collaborate on their approach, launching a multi-state reopening task force earlier this week that includes at least seven states.
The governor's reluctance to close New York schools has caused frustration for school officials and some local governments, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced earlier this month that his city's schools would remain closed before being overruled by Cuomo.
This week, Cuomo has repeatedly acknowledged the difficulties in reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic.
On Wednesday, he listed some of those challenges.
Schools, for example, would have to be heavily sanitized before students return, he said. And school districts would also have to put together programs and measures to ensure some level of social distancing, a challenge to pull together in a matter of weeks when many school buildings are crowded as they are.
Cuomo acknowledged it's plausible that schools in some parts of the state could reopen sooner than others, though he didn't commit to doing so.
Of the state's total COVID-19 cases, the vast majority have been in New York City and its suburbs, leaving open the possibility that the state could reopen schools in regions that have had far fewer cases.
"Theoretically, could you? Yes," Cuomo said. "Could you say North Country schools will open with all those provisos? Yes."
Still, any decisions would be based on data and expert opinion as the state continues to strain to contain the virus.
“Let’s get the data," he said. "In the meantime, schools will not open until we say schools will open statewide."