By Annette Pinder

Governor Cuomo has announced back to school COVID-19 guidelines in order to return our children to school safely, saying the decision will be based on COVID-19 measures for each region including the 14-day average infection rate and the region’s current phase of reopening.

“First, a region must be in phase four of reopening, and second, the region’s infection rate has to be five percent or lower, based upon a 14-day average. This also means that changes in this data will determine whether schools remain open and if at any point, the infection rate in the region is greater than nine percent, based on a seven-day average, the schools in the region will close,” says Cuomo.

“If the infection rate goes over nine percent on a seven-day average, it means the virus is moving rapidly and it is not intelligent to reopen,” Cuomo said. “It’s purely on the numbers and science. It’s not, do we open or not. We reopen if it’s safe to reopen,” Cuomo said. “You look at the data. You don’t hold your finger up and check the wind.”

According to Cuomo, once schools reopen, they will have to follow state guidelines regarding a host of COVID-19 related issues, including proper physical distancing, the use of masks, and personal protective equipment. That Board of Regents, the governing body for the state Education Department, met on Monday and broadly discussed guidelines for school districts on how to safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Thomas Russo, UB Chief of Infectious Disease says he believes schools may be able to open safely if we keep the virus at low levels and with proper planning.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may not decide until early August whether schools will reopen in the fall, but New York’s school districts and private schools will be busy until then to meet the many demanding state requirements for how schools must operate in person, remotely or both released by the Health Department. School districts, BOCES, and private schools have until July 31 to submit plans for the fall to Albany. Meanwhile, the State Board of Regents has issued its own set of NY State Regents Guidelines for Reopening Schools.