Public Schools to Report COVID-19 Cases to State on Daily Basis

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last Thursday that the state’s 700-plus school districts will be required to provide the Department of Health with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The requirement for each school begins this Tuesday, Sept. 8, and the information will be available for the public to access on a new online dashboard developed by the Department of Health. Information will be available for viewing starting Wednesday.

“Many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans, but as I’ve said from the beginning, those plans are only as good as their implementation,” Cuomo said. “Parents and teachers are understandably concerned about schools reopening. (Health Commissioner) Dr. (Howard) Zucker and the state Department of Health will set up a dashboard for teachers and parents, so they know exactly what’s happening in their schools.”

Also announced last week was the launch of a system-wide SUNY COVID-19 case tracker dashboard. The centralized dashboard will provide real time, up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases, testing and quarantine and isolation space availability across the 64 colleges and universities. It is expected to provide health and school officials a greater ability to monitor, respond to and contain the virus.

The unveiling of the SUNY dashboard comes after a spiraling number of cases at SUNY Oneonta forced administrators to send home students from the campus for the remainder of the fall semester. There were about 600 positive cases at Oneonta.

Creation of the two dashboards and the cluster of cases at SUNY Oneonta was followed by Monday’s announcement that the state has recorded 31 consecutive days of COVID-19 transmission rates of less than 1 percent.

On Sunday, there were 520 positive results from 58,865 tests administered for a transmission rate of 0.88 percent.

Locally, the Mid-Hudson region reported a 1.2 percent positive rate on Sunday, but has remained mainly between 0.8 and 1.3 percent each day for the entire summer. On Sunday, Westchester had a 0.9 positive rate while Putnam had three positive results from 240 tests.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the state fell to 410 over the weekend, the lowest since Mar. 16. As of last Wednesday, the last day where figures were available, Westchester saw 25 hospitalizations.

“Our numbers have continued to remain stable even as we reach new milestones in our phased, data-driven reopening,” Cuomo said. “As we close out this Labor Day Weekend, I urge everyone to remain smart so we can continue to celebrate our progress in the weeks and months ahead.”

He urged residents to continue to wash hands, wear masks and social distance.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said he expected that cases will increase within the county from last week’s COVID-19 cluster at Holy Innocents Church in Pleasantville. Two priests tested positive last week after leading multiple Masses and a First Communion between Aug. 24 and Aug. 30. A church staff member also tested positive.

“We are going to see most likely a rise in the number of active cases and a rise in the number of positives, whatever that number is,” Latimer said.

Results from last weekend’s drive-through testing site at Phelps Hospital should be known this week.

Casinos Given Green Light to Reopen

Those who want to try their hand at one of the state’s casinos are back in luck. Last Wednesday, Cuomo announced casinos and video lottery terminal facilities will be allowed to reopen starting Sept. 9 with a 25 percent occupancy limit.

Any casino that chooses to reopen will be subject to strict safety protocols, including face coverings, except when eating or drinking. Social distancing, additional staff to control occupancy, traffic flow and seating to avoid crowding and enhanced cleaning and disinfection are also required.

In addition, casinos must install enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards in order to operate.

There must be at least six feet between slot machines, and no table games will be allowed unless casinos install physical barriers between players and the venue receives Gaming Commission approval. No beverage or food service will be allowed on the gaming floor.

The commission will monitor casinos to ensure enforcement.

Empire Casino in Yonkers has not made a formal announcement when it plans to reopen to the public.