Summer school to be held online; day camps await state's decision

Associated Press Roxanne Ojeda-Valentin, center, and her children, Makayla, left, and Malachi walk home from Frederick Law Olmsted school in Buffalo on March 17 after picking up books and assignments to work on from home while the district is closed by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

ALBANY — New York summer schools will move to remote learning when they open next month, with state officials opting to extend the closing of in-person classes for a few more months.

No decision has yet been made on whether summer day camp programs will be allowed in New York because of concerns about an inflammatory illness linked to COVID-19. The pediatric syndrome has sickened 157 children and young adults across the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

For the new academic year beginning next September, state officials are expected to issue guidelines for school administrators next month so they can devise reopening plans that are to be turned in to the state for review in July.

Cuomo, during a New York City stop, said he is holding off making a decision on whether traditional classrooms can resume in the coming academic year until the state gets "more facts" about the risks posed by the multisystem inflammatory illness.

In New York, three children, ages 5 to 18, have died from the inflammation.

“This inflammatory syndrome is more frightening than COVID respiratory illness in some ways because it inflames the heart,” the governor said. “Well, we know it exists. We don’t know how widespread it is.”

He suggested more children will get the illness. "The more we look, the more we find it," he said.

The syndrome has been detected in at least 25 states and 13 countries. Researchers believe it is caused by a COVID-19 infection.

The concerns about how widespread the pediatric syndrome has become are strong enough that it would be prudent for parents to refrain from arranging summer camp enrollments for children, he said

"I would not send my children to day camp," Cuomo said. "And if I won’t send my children to day camp, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to send their children to day camp."

Seven upstate regions have been reopened in recent days after the rate of the spread of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations tapered off and counties put contact tracers in place to alert people believed to have been in contact with a person suspected of having the virus.

On Thursday, state officials said horticulture-related operations, including greenhouses, nurseries, sod farms and arborists, have been deemed an essential service that can resume operations across the state.

Landscaping businesses can continue to operate, with allowed activities expanded to include the planting of grasses, shrubs, trees and mulching, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The businesses engaged in those activities must create plans to reopen safely, officials said.

In a fresh indication of how the lockdown on businesses has impacted New York's economy, new unemployment data released late Thursday showed the statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate rising to 14.5% in April, up from 4.1 percent.

More than 1.7 million private sector jobs were lost in that month, the biggest one-month drop on record in New York, the state Department of Labor reported.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that as of last week the number of New Yorkers who are receiving unemployment benefits has risen to nearly 1.9 million.

The number of COVID-19 fatalities reported each day by the state has been decreasing in recent weeks. Officials noted Thursday the state recorded 105 new deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 23,083.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

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