NY’s Education System in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Wednesday 20 May 2020

 

* New York reported 22,843 total statewide deaths of New Yorkers who tested positive for COVID-19.

* There were 105 more fatalities in New York yesterday.

* For more numbers, including the latest statewide and borough-by-borough statistics, click here.

* See the governor’s May 19 coronavirus presentation here.

Join us May 26th at 2 p.m. for our webinar on Education System in the Coronavirus Pandemic with panelists Betty Rosa, Chancellor.  New York State Board of Regents, Senator John Liu, Chairperson, Committee on NYC Education and Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair, Education Committee.

How will remote education affect our kids learning abilities, social development and mental health? What services can we provide to this entire generation of young minds?

Register here for FREE now.

The downstate battle for the beaches

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is holding his ground on keeping local beaches closed through Memorial Day, but he is increasingly feeling the heat from Long Island officials.

Nassau County lawmakers are looking to implement ID checks at local beaches to keep non-residents from using them until city beaches reopen as well. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone proclaimed a locals-only beach policy via Twitter Tuesday morning.  

Beyond determining whether people in the five boroughs go sunbathing and how that might affect the spread of the coronavirus, the standoff raises an important question about how state and local governments can manage access to public spaces.

“It’s up to the local governments,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose emergency powers give him the ultimate authority on the matter, told reporters at a Tuesday press conference on Long Island. 

The idea of restricting people’s movements based on their residency came up early in the crisis when states like Rhode Island aimed to block New Yorkers from entering. While the idea was quickly abandoned, it is making a comeback of sorts among some Long Island leaders.

“It’s a shame Long Island has to turn away city beachgoers to protect its residents and ensure safe beaches,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, dean of the Long Island delegation, said in a Tuesday statement. “But until the mayor gets his act together and makes his own beaches safe, that’s the only responsible move.”

New York City is still lagging behind Long Island when it comes to meeting state criteria for reopening. The mayor leaned on that Tuesday morning while explaining his reasons for keeping beaches closed for the time being, but he also pushed back at the idea of limiting a public accommodation to people who could prove their residency one way or another. 

“This should not be about any ill feeling toward people depending on where they come from,” he told PIX11 in an interview. “There are very real clear limits on the beaches that will be open – and everyone needs to respect that.”

Regional Control Rooms work the reopening levers

Mayors, county executives and other local leaders have a key role in managing the pandemic, especially when it comes to enforcing social distancing and developing testing and tracing programs. They could do this in their day jobs, but the new regional “Control Rooms” offer some political advantages to both the governor and local officials. 

An appointment to one of the 10 advisory councils can boost a member’s standing while also offering a direct line to the governor’s office. “A lot of businesses and industries come to us looking for guidance – how they can operate – and then we pass that information on to Albany,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, who is in the Finger Lake Regional Control Room, told The Capitol Pressroom. “We also advocate for our regions.”

That sounds like a euphemism for being outside the decision-making process, but astute regional Control Room operators can get things done. Just look at Western New York, which is starting its Phase 1 reopening today after local officials boosted their tracing program over the weekend after the Cuomo administration tweaked the reopening rules in the region’s favor. 

At the same time, the governor gets buy-in from local officials (even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio) by having them serve as advisors on reopening. He obtains a more local perspective on the public health and economic situations. And the control rooms transform the reopening process into a numbers game that is played on his terms. 

An added benefit: If places like Rochester are not following the reopening rules set by the Cuomo administration, then the governor can always lean on some longtime political allies to send a message. 

“There are businesses that want to reopen,” Bob Duffy, a former lieutenant governor who leads the Finger Lakes Control Room. “They want to get to Phase Two, Phase Three, Phase Four. If these rates keep going up, it’s going to be a very, very slow process.”

What else is happening

* The Capital Region will begin reopening Wednesday after resolving outstanding issues with recruiting its local corps of coronavirus tracers. This will leave the Mid-Hudson Valley as the only upstate region with a stay-at-home order still in place. Long Island is also stuck at a score of five out of the seven state requirements for reopening, according to the latest regional scorecard. A big reduction in COVID-19 fatalities means that elective surgeries can resume in Nassau County, but deaths will have to fall a bit more – and tracing has to increase –  for Long Island to join upstate in beginning its reopening process. Though downstate is behind in reopening, some hospitals in the region are included in a new pilot program that will allow personal visits to resume. 

* The numbers have not been so great in New York City in recent days, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Today is a mixed bag,” he told reporters Tuesday in reference to an uptick in hospitalizations and ICU admissions at public hospitals. With the pandemic still ravaging the city – albeit at much lower levels than previous weeks – the city is looking to continue remote learning over the summer for nearly 180,000 students.

* NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has accepted an apology from New York City Department of Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot. “I think a lot of people were under a lot of different stresses during that period of time, trying to do the best they can, and I accepted her apology,” Shea told reporters Tuesday. This could calm speculation that Barbot would be forced out of the job after clashing with the mayor earlier in the pandemic. Police unions turned on Barbot following comments she made after the NYPD tried to commandeer a half-million masks from the department weeks ago. “I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” Barbot said at the time. “I need them for others.”

* More than $1 billion in state spending is on hold, but it could be weeks before localities and other recipients of state aid get their money. Another $370 million in grants to upstate cities is also being put on hold, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the state waits to pull the trigger on sweeping state budget cuts to public schools, health care and local governments. The governor told reporters Tuesday that it might be several weeks before the fiscal picture becomes any clearer as efforts continue to secure tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid – according to reports, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to pass another stimulus bill before June at the earliest. 

Pressure is mounting on the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of Treasury to spend hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress has already allocated. While Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are both reluctant to invest more public money in businesses because of the risks involved, they differ in their broader approaches to resuscitating the economy. “The No. 1 thing, of course, is people believing that it’s safe to go back to work,” Powell told a Senate panel Tuesday. Mnuchin told lawmakers that there could be “permanent damage” to the national economy unless the pace of reopening picks up. 

* The Metropolitan Transportation Authority should begin running more commuter trains in the upcoming weeks, the governor told reporters Tuesday. “The trains are cleaner than they’ve been,” he said. “When we are ready to reopen, the MTA will be ready.” Ridership levels are expected to rise if suburbanites begin returning to their New York City workplaces over the summer. Transit officials across the country are considering a broad range of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus on trains and buses, including temperature checks and reserved seating. “Everything is on the table,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said recently.  

* Vehicular parades and ceremonies of less than 10 people will be allowed statewide to commemorate Memorial Day this weekend, Cuomo announced Tuesday.

* A federal appeals court said that the June 23 New York Democratic presidential primary will indeed take place. While this was a defeat for the state, which sought to cancel the primary after former Vice President Joe Biden clinched the party’s nomination, the Cuomo administration did prevail in two other lawsuits that challenged the legality of its cancellation of a special election for the Queens borough president, though voters will still cast ballots in a primary to determine the eventual replacement for Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, who took over the post after Melinda Katz became county district attorney.

* Elections on local school budgets are being held on June 9 and districts across the state are taking a variety of approaches to dealing with the ongoing fiscal uncertainty. A Westchester school district is one of many to put up a budget that will not need voters to approve an increase beyond the (more or less) 2% state cap. Officials in Rensselaer are pushing for a 19.5% property tax increase that they say rises to the dire fiscal occasion. One school board’s rejection of a superintendent’s proposed budget suggests that the political back-and-forth will go down to the wire as local officials try to find a balance between preparing for the worst and remaining hopeful that new federal funding will limit whatever state cuts might come. 

* The state might have to take on the costs of deploying the National Guard after June 24 now that the Trump administration has stated its intent to avoid the required costs of keeping 40,000 troops in the field across the country. Thousands of such troops have helped the Empire State expand the capacity of its health care system and testing programs during the pandemic. With the fate of another federal stimulus bill far from certain, it remains to be seen if the state will be able to afford the $9 million per month the National Council of State Legislatures estimates every 1,000 troops costs.  

* President Donald Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine after some White House staff tested positive for the coronavirus. The antimalarial drug can have dangerous side effects, but that is not stopping the president from making its promotion more personal than ever. “This is crazy,” tweeted New York City Councilman Justin Brannan. Also on the hydroxychloroquine front: New York University researchers are finding that the controversial medicine might not be completely useless for combatting COVID-19. 

Kicker

“The data is not straightforward.” - Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, on drawing conclusions from the $9.2 billion in unemployment benefits the state has paid since the pandemic began, via the Daily News. 

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