Gov. Cuomo: Some NYC schools to close as state monitors downstate virus hotspots

State News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Monday from New York City to give an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

Monday marked the 219th day since the pandemic began in New York, the new data, including downstate hotspot areas, is as follows:

  • Infection rate of top 20 zip code hotspots — 5.5%
  • Statewide infection rate outside of hotspots — 1.01%
  • Statewide infection rate with hotspots — 1.22%
  • Statewide deaths — 8
  • Statewide hospitalizations — 636
  • Statewide ICU — 149
  • Statewide intubations — 70

“Our hotspot zip codes are where many states are right now, and you’ll see it in some of the numbers,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Statewide positivity rate is 1.01% outside of the hotspot zip codes. 1% is an unbelievably low infection rate and as we’re going into the fall, I believe it’s going to be practically unsustainable, but it’s remarkable that were that low right now.”

The governor said that even with the top 20 zip code hotspots, New York is still in a good spot in regards to infection rates when compared to other states and countries.

“The fall is a challenging period, as we know, and we expect to see the infection rate go up in the fall,” Gov. Cuomo said. “All over the globe the infection rate is going up, all over the globe. Countries that were doing remarkably well are now seeing spikes. You look across the nation, states are all going up. New York is the outlier in all of the international and national trajectories — we are the exception to the rule. This is the one situation where we want to be the exception to the rule.”

The governor reiterated a previous sentiment: That local governments are doing enough when it comes to enforcing compliance.

“Lack of enforcement is not kind — I believe that and I have said that from day 1,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The state has been bullish on this and its worked. It’s not like I’m putting forth a proposition. Any rule is only as good as the enforcement.

“Too many local governments are not doing enforcement,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Warnings are not enforcement. Put a mask on or I will ticket you is not enforcement. Store owner, you’re not supposed to have this many people in your store. We are passed that everybody knows the rules.”

The governor said that to ensure school safety, more data needs to be collected — especially in the hotspot clusters.

“On schools, my No. 1 concern has always been schools. I said to the parents in this state that I would not allow children to be sent to a school that I wouldn’t send my child to. That’s my test,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We don’t have data on all of the schools in these hotspots cluster that troubles me.”

The governor said that schools in the hotspot clusters will close Tuesday while the state works to collect more data.

“Better safe than sorry,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I would not send my child to a school in a hotspot cluster, than was not tested, where I did not have proof that the infection rate is not low in their school. We’re going to close the schools in those areas tomorrow, and that’s that.”

The governor pointed out that the school closures are only for New York City schools in hotspot zip codes — not other clusters like Rockland and Orange Counties.

“We may close those schools, we don’t have the same level of problem, but I’m goign to be speaking to those community leaders also tomorrow because its roughly the same situation,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The governor admitted that using zip codes to define hotspot areas is an imperfect indicator, and he said he’d be working with state health officials to come up with a more refined system of location identifiers.

“Health officials agree, when we did New Rochelle we did a circle,” Gov. Cuomo said “Every other state every, other country does a political subdivision — a county, a city, a town; so the zip codes are not the best template to use, but we are using the zip codes to close those schools tomorrow.”

The governor also stressed the potential danger of mass gatherings, specifically religious gatherings. The governor said that these types of gatherings, which have been going on for weeks, can be super-spreader events. He said there needs to be real compliance and enforcement.

“If I do not have the agreement from the religious community directly as a starting point then we will close down the religious institutions,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If they do agree to do it in partnership then I want a real enforcement capacity — we’re not going to make the same mistake twice.”

The governor said the state would assume the role of overseeing enforcement in the statewide hotspot clusters.

“We have to be more aggressive,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I understand the sensitivity in the community, but I also understand that you will see people die if we don’t do more enforcement. I also understand that we have learned this experience before. The state is going to take over the enforcement oversight in all the hotspot clusters. Local government will need to provide us with personnel, but the state will take over the enforcement with the local personnel. I’d rather you be alive and angry with me then have people be happy with me. I’m elected to do a job and be responsible — that’s what I want to do.”

The governor ended his presentation, before taking questions from the media, by reminding New Yorkers that the state remains in a relatively decent place, even with the hotspot clusters.

“Keep the bar high, raise the goal and we do the best we can,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But I’m also realistic and these are the facts that surround us. That’s why right now, you take out our hotspots and we have one of the lowest infection rates in the United States of America.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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