As malls reopen, county fairs canceled, decision on schools to come in early August

Jul 9, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that shopping malls will be allowed to open in New York beginning Friday if they meet certain conditions. At the same time, citing ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, he said any remaining county fairs still planned for this summer are canceled, and he hasn't yet made a decision on any school openings in the fall.

Cuomo said regions that are already in phase four can open shopping malls Friday if the malls have installed high-quality air filters that can help eliminate the virus in the air and can make provisions to increase the flow of outdoor air and minimize the recirculation of indoor air.

He said he’s continuing to consult with the state’s education department and the school districts, which have been required to submit plans for full or partial reopening by July 31. He said a decision will come during the first week of August.

The governor condemned President Donald Trump, who is urging that schools across the country fully reopen in the fall.

“This is getting a little old,” Cuomo said. "School reopenings are a state decision. Period. That is the law.”

Trump, in a tweet, threatened to cut off federal aid to states whose schools do not fully reopen. The governor said he won’t allow New York to be “bullied” and that won’t influence his decisions.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said schools in New York City will reopen in a limited manner in the fall, with children attending in-person classes just one to three days per week, on a staggered schedule. Parents who do not want their children to be physically present in the schools can opt for full-time remote learning.

The governor, who has a history of disagreeing with the mayor, said he has not yet signed off on that plan.

“The plan will be reviewed, and then we’ll accept or deny the specific plan,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the city’s plan will not be finalized by the state until the first week of August, when a decision on all of the schools is made. But he said it’s possible there could be different reopening guidelines for schools in different regions of the state.

Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, said in a statement that teachers continue to work with the governor and education officials, including the State Board of Regents, on a safe reopening plan for schools. The union sided with Cuomo’s plan over Trump’s views.

“The federal government’s demands that schools reopen without concern for health, safety and equity are simply out of touch,” Pallotta said. “Thankfully, here in New York, we know the governor, the Regents and fellow education stakeholders are taking this seriously.”

The teachers union said their requirements for a safe school year include adequate personal protective equipment, strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and a plan to maintain safe social distancing of 6 feet at all times. They also want accommodations to be made for high-risk students and staff, and increased mental health resources.

Betty Rosa, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, also pushed back against Trump’s comments, saying any decision on the reopening of schools must be based on “the best science, data and guidance available from state and federal health professionals.”

“To completely disregard what we have learned so far about this virus and require schools to open under the threat of losing funding during a time when state, local and school budgets are already facing extreme shortfalls is reckless and plays politics with our children’s futures,” Rosa said in a statement.