Gov. Cuomo, Health Secretary Azar clash with de Blasio over school closings

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and US Health and Human Services Secretary agreed Monday that schools with lower coronavirus infection rates should remain open — casting doubt on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close public schools if New York City’s infection rate hits 3 percent.

Cuomo during an interview on MSNBC, said the schools are often the safest place for kids, often with lower infection rates than the neighborhoods they’re in.

“The infection rate in the schools is much lower than the rest of the city and the rest of the community. Why not leave the children in the schools rather than have them around run around the streets where the infection rate is five times as high,” the governor said.

Cuomo said the agreement to close schools when the city infection rate hits 3 percent was set months ago and there is more precise data available now to make a more informed decision.

He said the infection rate in the schools should also be taken into account.

“What I’m suggesting to the parents and the teachers and the mayor is, let’s take a second calculus which is the infection rate in the school. We know New York City is at 3 percent. Let’s add an element of the infection rate in the school and if the school is below a certain threshold, let that school reopen. But the parents and the teachers have to agree. There is no fiat here,” Cuomo said.

“If the parents don’t agree, they don’t send their child, school doesn’t matter. If the teachers don’t agree, they don’t come into the school, you don’t have a classroom. So that’s the discussion that’s going on right now. I think it’s a good discussion.”

But Cuomo emphasized that he was recommending, not ordering any changes — meaning he was still leaving the decision in de Blasio’s hands. That’s in line with the governor’s prior comments on the volatile issue.

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