ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR) — A spokesperson for the Office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirms that neither his office nor New York’s Department of Health (DOH) will issue any kind of guidelines for reopening schools next month.
The spokesperson blames the situation on rescinding the COVID-19 state of emergency. DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker corroborated the rationale behind the decision:
“With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments.”
The New York State Education Department released the following statement:
Notwithstanding the position of the Executive Chamber that the Department of Health (DOH) will not be releasing guidance to assist schools with welcoming students back to safe and healthy learning environments in September, Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa has sent a letter asking Commissioner Howard Zucker to consider DOH’s statutory responsibilities as the state agency devoted to protecting the public health.
The Public Health Law provides that the Department of Health is charged with exercising control over and supervising the abatement of nuisances affecting or likely to affect public health as well as supervising and advising any local unit of government and the public health officials thereof within the state in the performance of their official duties. Currently, there is no greater nuisance affecting public health and safety than COVID-19. There is an urgent need for timely advice and supervision flowing from the State Department of Health to local and school officials as they navigate these uncertain times.
The circumstances enveloping the Executive Chamber this week should not prevent the Department of Health from the execution of its responsibilities to the public, as has been promised by the Governor’s office for months.
In late July, the education department said students will likely be wearing masks when they return to school in the fall. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said all students in K-12 should wear masks in the classroom.
The education department sent a memo to school districts so they can start preparing.