Governor Cuomo: “We will close these schools but it needs to be done with these contingencies in mind so that children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t understaffed – otherwise we cut off our nose to spite our face.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk schools will close this week in an effort to limit the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Schools in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk will close for two weeks beginning Monday, March 16.
New York City must develop a plan within the next 24 hours to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents – especially critical healthcare workers and first responders – will be provided access to child care as needed. New York City schools will close early this week.
“Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to a rate that the healthcare system can manage, and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density,” Governor Cuomo said. “Closing the schools is a good idea but you have to anticipate and correct any unintended consequences – we have to ensure children who rely on free school meals continue to get them and that there’s adequate child care, especially for healthcare workers and first responders who are parents of young children. We will close these schools but it needs to be done with these contingencies in mind so that children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t understaffed – otherwise we cut off our nose to spite our face.“
The Governor also called on 1199 SEIU President George Gresham, New York State Nurses Association President Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, Greater New York Hospitals Association President Ken Raske and United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew to work together to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents will be provided access to child care as needed, including temporary daycare centers. These centers would prioritize care for children of healthcare workers and first responders to ensure these school closures do not strain the hospital and emergency response systems.
Earlier Sunday, the Governor tasked SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras with working with counties to develop contingency plans in preparation for school closings, including how to provide meals to food insecure children and ensuring families have adequate access to childcare.
The county executives from Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau joined a conference call with Governor Cuomo earlier today to discuss the closures and said the following:
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Our county has been coordinating with the State to ensure an effective means of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Cancelling group events and meetings, limiting access for non-essential social contacts and anticipating additional testing and healthcare needs are all part of our response in concert with the Governor and his administration. Closing schools-with adequate childcare and nutrition provisions-is the next step we will undertake this week. We deeply appreciate the leadership shown by Governor Cuomo.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “Over the last several days we have worked with our state and local partners on the potential closure of schools as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to increase around the state. As part of our larger social distancing efforts, we came to the conclusion that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership as we deal with this crisis as well as our school districts for their partnership and swift action to protect Suffolk families.“
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for fully supporting our decision to close all public and private schools and for his unwavering commitment to ensure every child in Nassau County is fully taken care of while this crisis continues to unfold. We all agree that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children.”