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NY Lt. Governor On School Reopening, Flu Season Complications

Hochul school reopening web

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — As New York schools brace for a new school year in the coronavirus pandemic, they are also prepping for flu season. The likely overlap may complicate how effectively schools screen students and staff for COVID-19.

COVID-19 is far more dangerous than the flu, for which people can be vaccinated, those infected show some similar symptoms, including fever, headaches, and coughing. It is also possible to test positive for both viruses at once.

“The main thing that we’re concerned about this fall is that there’s going to be this confluence of COVID still being very much in existence and having the flu season,” said New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

According to the State Education Department’s reopening guidance, any student exhibiting symptoms should be sent to the nurse’s office right away. It also requires daily temperature checks for all students, staff and visitors.

“So you can have an early warning system that symptoms are starting to show up,” Hochul said.

While the guidance mandates schools meet specific requirements when it comes to personal protective equipment, hygiene and social distancing, it was left up to each of the state’s 700 school districts to decide to what extent children will be learning at home or in person. Districts submitted their reopening plans to the state for approval at the end of July.

Most schools will follow a hybrid model, with learning students at home for part of the week, but for parents and guardians who are essential workers doing so creates challenges and financial hardship.

“If parents are going to have to go to work and the kids are at home, that’s just an absolute nightmare,” Hochul said.

Back in March, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that required school districts to set up emergency childcare centers for children of first responders, medical workers and other essential personnel.

According to Hochul, the state will require more federal aid before they can fund similar childcare sites again. School districts fear that without further federal funding, their state aid will be reduced.

Over the course of the pandemic, New York's budget hole has grown to $14 billion. In April, Cuomo said without federal aid, school districts can expect to lose around 20 percent of their state funding.