December 5, 2020
ALBANY, NY – Op/Ed By Governor Andrew Cuomo, That Appeared In Newsday:
Almost everyone who has moved into adulthood still remembers lessons learned from the teachers of our youth. The lessons stay with us because they are powerful and true. But today, we can still learn important lessons from our schools and teachers—lessons that will help us navigate the dangers of this pandemic, and that will help save lives.
During the year, we have done hundreds of thousands of COVID tests in our schools. Without exception, in every part of the state, the infection rate in schools is lower than the surrounding community; in fact very low.
Infection rates on average in schools are under 3%. Even in yellow zones where community spread is more than 5.3%, school infection rates are a fraction. Massapequa Park, for example, has a community infection rate of 6.6%, but the schools are 3.5%. Elsewhere on Long Island, Hauppauge’s infection rate is 6%, but the school rate is 1.8%. In New Hyde Park, the community infection rate is 3.4%, while the school rate is 1.5%. In Ronkonkoma, the community infection rate is over 7%, while the school rate is 2.6%. In Syosset, the community infection rate is over 3%, while the school rate is 1.6%. In Southampton, 2.8% in the community and 1.1% in schools.
As any parent knows, schools are usually places where illnesses spread easily. But in the case of COVID, the safest place in the community is truly the school.
How can that be? Because schools are following basic rules. The students and teachers wear masks. They practice social distancing. They frequently wash their hands. Many of the students are in fact quite excited and very serious about doing their part to keep their friends and families safe.
They should be an example to us all. Too many adults have not heeded their education, ignoring the experts and acting without regard for the consequences of their actions by hosting large gatherings or failing to use the most effective tool at our disposal right now: a face covering.
We know how a virus spreads. We have all had someone in our homes catch a virus, and we all know what we had to do to prevent other family members from getting sick. The same is true of COVID, only on a larger scale.
All that is required to control its spread is for people to be smart and disciplined. COVID is potent, but it has no power until it enters a person’s body. Maintaining social distancing and wearing masks keeps that from happening. We know bars, restaurants, and large gatherings are problematic. Now social behavior has changed, and more people are gathering in smaller groups in homes. This has become the largest spreader. Home, family, friends seem safe, but not from COVID.
The vaccine is coming. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s stay smart—and alive—until we get there.