New York's schools and colleges will remain shut through the end of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
The order, which applies to 4.2 million students statewide, continues a shutdown that had been set to expire May 15. The Democratic governor said it is simply too risky to reopen when the virus is still sending nearly 1,000 people into the hospital every day.
"We don't think it's possible to do that in a way that would keep our children and students and educators safe, so we're going to have the schools remain closed for the rest of the year, we're going to continue the distance learning programs," Cuomo said.
"We must protect our children," he said. "Every parent and citizen feels that."
A decision about whether to allow summer school inside classroom buildings will be deferred until the end of May, he said. Whenever schools are allowed to reopen, each district's plan would need state approval. A decision about whether summer camps will be allowed to operate will also be made later.
The state's largest school district, in New York City, had already determined it could not reopen before the scheduled end of the school year in June.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced April 11 that the city would rely on remote learning through the end of the school year. At the time, Cuomo dismissed de Blasio's announcement as an "opinion," saying the governor had the power to make decisions on a statewide basis.
Education officials said they welcomed Cuomo's announcement Friday. Robert Schneider, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said it would not be safe to open schools without knowing how to safely transport students and put in place social distancing and other safeguards.
"Clearly, schools are not ready to open for classroom learning, and they won't be until we can adequately protect our students and staff," Schneider said in a written statement.
Schools nationwide are evaluating whether they will keep the institutions closed, and potentially even continue remote learning in the fall.
Cuomo made the announcement at his daily coronavirus briefing, which also included updated fatality and infection numbers. Cuomo said 289 people died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on Thursday, down from 306 the day before.
Other coronavirus-related developments in New York:
The last patients left New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention center on Friday after a total of 1,095 patients were treated at the convention center as the coronavirus ravaged the city during the month of April.
Dr. Chris Tanski, the chief medical officer at the Javits Center, said the last eight patients left Friday afternoon.
Military personnel including the Army Corps of Engineers turned the massive, glass-walled facility on the Hudson River into a field hospital as part of an effort to relieve the strain on the city's hospital system posed by the unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.
"We were able to offload some of the volume from the hospitals," said Tanski, a doctor at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse who was part of a federal disaster response task force helping New York treated COVID-19 patients.
The daily count of patients who enter hospitals across the state for treatment of COVID-19 has been hovering around 900 to 1,000, a number that is down from more than 3,000 at the beginning of April but is still troubling, Cuomo said.
"That is still too high a number of new cases to have every day," said Cuomo, who said he will ask hospitals to start reporting details about newly infected New Yorkers such as where they work, how they commute, and demographic information such as age and gender.
"Literally where do new cases come from?" Cuomo said. "Are they essential workers? Are they people who are staying at home and getting infected by a family member? Or are they essential workers who are still traveling and possibly getting infected at work? Where do they work, how do they commute?"
Cuomo said the information will let the state come up with a tailored battle plan to reduce new daily hospitalizations that are still a burden on the health care system.
"Let's drill down on those 1,000 new cases," he said. "Where are they coming from? Why is the infection rate continuing? Who's getting infected and let's get more targeted in our response."
In other developments:
De Blasio said the city is mourning a paramedic from Colorado who died of COVID-19 after traveling to the city help with the response to the pandemic.
"I've got to tell you, it just hurts that such a good man has made the ultimate sacrifice for us," the mayor said.