New York City schools will be closed beginning Thursday due to a rise in coronavirus cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday. But he may have forgotten to tell the top boss of the state. At the same time the Democratic mayor announced the move on Twitter, a combative Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that schools were open.
De Blasio said officials opted to close schools out of an abundance of caution after coronavirus test positivity rates hit the 3% threshold.
"We must fight back the second wave," the mayor said on Twitter.
Earlier, the governor had said data shows the positivity rate in New York City is still below 3 percent, with a rolling average of 2.5 percent.
De Blasio was four hours late to a news conference because he said he was meeting with state officials over the decision.
But questions over whether Cuomo was one of those state officials remains a mystery.
Why? Because Cuomo seemed to be caught off guard when reporters asked if New York City schools were closed starting Thursday after de Blasio had already made the announcement.
The Democratic governor, who was holding a press conference of his own in Albany, got into a testy exchange with Wall Street Journal reporter Jimmy Vielkind, who asked if schools would remain open amid a statewide rise in infections.
“All right, first of all, let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone. Because you’re 100 percent wrong,” Cuomo said, before raising his voice.
“Remember we did orange zone, red zone in Brooklyn and Queens and we closed the schools? Don’t you remember that? So what are you talking about?”
Schools in designated “red zone” districts in the two boroughs with positivity rates higher than 3 percent shut down weeks ago.
"Any school district in a microcluster, the schools can remain open in an orange zone but they have to do additional testing," said Cuomo.
“I’m still confused,” Vielkind said. “Well then you’re confused,” Cuomo shot back.
“Parents are still confused as well,” said Vielkind
New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley continued to press the governor on whether schools would be open Thursday. “The schools are open by state law,” the governor offered.
“But will they [New York City schools] be open tomorrow? That’s the question. I think Jimmy’s correct in asking that question. I don’t think it’s obnoxious at all,” McKinley said.
Cuomo then fired back, “Well, I don’t really care what you think. Of course, you agree with him because you’re in the same business with him.”
Fox News reached out to both Cuomo and de Blasio but their offices have yet to respond.
NYC principals are being told to take necessary items home with them as remote teaching will begin in the morning.
Students will shift to remote learning during the indefinite shutdown and all school buildings will remain closed until further notice, NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza informed parents in a letter sent to them on Wednesday.
"Please note that this is a temporary closure, and school buildings will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so," the letter, obtained by Fox News, said.
"I know that for many of you, this decision to temporarily close school buildings that we recently opened up will be disappointing, and I understand," Carranza wrote. "But by confronting these challenges together, we can continue to fight back against COVID-19. And I am confident that before long, we will be able to safely reopen our school buildings again."
De Blasio said the city could be implementing "additional restrictions" in New York City that could impact other industries, he announced at a press conference on Wednesday, as he also urged more people to get tested for the virus.
The 3% threshold for NYC school closures has been a flashpoint for lawmakers, school officials and parents, as some argue the number is unnecessarily low. Even Cuomo has urged de Blasio to raise the threshold, citing lower infection rates in schools when compared to the city at large.
Carranza said school infection rates have been 0.91% but the mayor has purposefully kept the number low to err on the side of safety.
Fox News' Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.