Bill de Blasio on Sunday doubled down on his decision to shutter NYC schools for the rest of the year a day after locking horns with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The mayor said it was a decision he ‘had to make’, adding: ‘The bottom line here is about health and safety.’
Asked who had the final decision on closures de Blasio added: ‘This is not about legal jurisdictions, but a moral one.’
The mayor said in a news briefing Saturday that public school sites in the city’s 1.1 million-student school district would shutter for the rest of the academic year to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Soon afterward, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his own briefing that the decision was his to make.
‘It is my legal authority in this situation, yes,’ Cuomo said.
Bill de Blasio, pictured, on Sunday doubled down on his decision to shutter NYC schools for the rest of the year a day after locking horns with Governor Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured Saturday, said at his own briefing that the decision was his to make. ‘It is my legal authority in this situation, yes,’ Cuomo said
But de Blasio said Sunday: ‘When it comes to a decision like this our job is to protect the children, the families, the educators of NYC.’
He said it is ‘abundantly clear’ that in order to do these things ‘we have to keep the schools closed for the remainder of the school year’.
As of Sunday morning there were 9,385 deaths from COVID-19 across the state of New York with 6, 387 of those in the nations epicenter, New York City.
The mayor said his decision was made Friday evening and it was ‘imperative to announce as soon as it was made to allow everything to be planned accordingly’.
He said state legislators were told Saturday morning.
Cuomo said later that day – following de Blasio’s press conference – school closings would have to be coordinated with districts surrounding the city.
‘So I understand the mayor’s position, which is he wants to close them until June, and we may do that, but we’re going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities,’ Cuomo said. ‘It makes no sense for one locality to take an action that’s not coordinated with the others.’
When a reporter suggested that the mixed messages would confuse parents, Cuomo said, ‘We just clarified it. It’s not going to be decided in the next few days because we don’t know.’
But the back and forth continued Sunday with De Blasio telling reporters: ‘What is the right thing to do for the kids, families, educators? The right thing to do is to keep the schools closed.
‘We are dealing with something different to anywhere else. He [Cuomo] has to think about the whole state. My responsibilty is to the children, families, educators of this city. That’s my singular focus.’
The dispute between Cuomo and de Blasio was the latest bout in a long-running grudge match between the two elected officials, who have failed to maintain a united front in the face of a pandemic.
When de Blasio said last month that city residents should prepare for a ‘shelter-in-place’ order, Cuomo countered that the city didn’t have the power to make such a declaration.
Days later, Cuomo announced a ‘New York state on pause’ order directing nonessential businesses to close and telling people to stay 6 feet away from others when in public. The order sounded much like shelter-in-place, a term de Blasio has continued to use.
De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein alluded to the earlier dispute on Twitter, saying Cuomo’s reaction to de Blasio’s school announcement was ‘reminiscent of how he reacted when the Mayor called for a shelter in place. We were right then and we’re right now.’
School buildings in New York City have been closed since March 16. All school buildings in the state have been closed since March 18 following a Cuomo executive order
The school closings were initially announced for a few weeks back before the virus’s full impact was known. New York’s school year lasts through late June
De Blasio added: ‘We have agreed on the vast majority of things. There may times when people have different perspectives.’
Speaking Sunday the Democrat confirmed the city would have ‘enough ventilators to get through this coming week based on what we know now’.
Figures show the rate of intubations has slowed – there are now an average of 70 more intubations daily down from between 200 and 300.
But de Blasio admitted PPE is not up to ‘peacetime’ standards, instead it is at ‘crisis’ standards, he said.
Asked about undocumented workers in the city de Blasio said: ‘We are going to make sure always people are protected regardless of documentation status.’
He also announced plans to expand testing in targeted communities. including East New York in Brooklyn and Harlem in Manhattan after date showed the black community has been disproportionately affected by the virus.
De Blasio said as of Monday all city workers must wear face coverings and announced the hiring of 500 non clinical staff for roles involving patient transport, clerical staff and cleaning jobs.
School buildings in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, have been closed since March 16. All school buildings in the state have been closed since March 18 following a Cuomo executive order.
The school closings were initially announced for a few weeks back before the virus’s full impact was known. New York’s school year lasts through late June.
A massive effort to move instruction online has met mixed success in the city, where many low-income students lack Wi-Fi and devices for connecting to their virtual classrooms.
De Blasio said tens of thousands of tablets and laptops have been loaned to students who needed them and the remaining students who lack devices for online learning will get them by the end of April.