New York state will ease its COVID-19 rules for schools this fall as students and teachers return to the classroom in the coming weeks, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.
Officials plan to align New York's pandemic rules for schools and other areas with updated guidelines released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The development means students will no longer have to "test to stay" if exposed to COVID-19. Classrooms with COVID exposure will not be sent home. Students with COVID symptoms will still be advised to test and wear a mask.
Schools also expect to receive COVID tests to aid with the reopening of districts this fall. Officials at the same time also do not expect the state to require masking indoors when schools reopen.
All told, about 14 million tests are expected to be distributed to the more than 600 school districts in the state as classrooms work to return to a semblance of normalcy after more than two years of the pandemic.
Hochul, at a news conference Monday, acknowledged the toll of remote learning on students, especially lower-income kids, during the pandemic and that it is something officials do not want to repeat.
"We are no longer keeping kids from essential of being together in a classroom because we are still dealing with the fallout," Hochul said. "There was concern in classroom but we now have two years of experience. we know kids are safe in classroom and when traditional learning stops it can be devastating for the well being of those children."
School officials in New York are bracing for another year and have hoped public health officials will issue guidelines that will provide them with some consistency for students.
Department of Health officials are expected to release a letter to school districts later on Monday affirming the plans to align their COVID guidance with the Centers for Disease Control. Official changes are expected to be outlined later this week.
The calibrations by federal and state health officials comes as they are simultaneously dealing with multiple public health crises. New York has seen a surge in monkeypox cases in recent weeks and has had the first confirmed cases of polio in nearly a decade.
Health Commissioner Mary Bassett on Monday urged New Yorkers to get their polio vaccinations if they have not already done so. The initial polio case was first confirmed in Rockland County, and wastewater samples have subsequently found polio traces circulating in New York City, state and city health officials have said.
But there has been a shortage of vaccines for monkeypox as health officials have scrambled to make more doses available. The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization to speed up distribution.
Public health officials have come under criticism for the response to the monkeypox outbreak, which has disproportionantly hit the the LGBTQ community with advocates calling the response too slow.
Officials also pledged to make more data available on the spread of the outbreak and the reach of the vaccines.
Hochul has been prodded by Republicans, meanwhile, to also surrender her office's powers to conduct oversight of the pandemic. The declared state of emergency has enabled the state to respond to the pandemic and includes the ability to make purchases without the usual pre-audits from oversight authorities.
Those powers are renewed on a monthly basis. Hochul on Monday indicated she would end some of these powers soon, but did not say when.