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Cuomo: Some hospital visits, Memorial Day gatherings OK

May 20, 2020 Marina Villeneuve, Karen Matthews and Michael Hill Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — COVID-19 patients will be allowed visitors in some New York hospitals and small Memorial Day ceremonies will be allowed. In New York City, online schooling will continue through the summer for some 177,700 public school students.

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:

Hospital visits

Sixteen hospitals in New York state will allow visitors as part of a pilot program addressing the heartbreak of COVID-19 patients suffering while isolated from their families and friends.

Cuomo said visits under the two-week pilot program will be time-limited. Visitors will need to wear protective equipment and will be subject to temperature and symptom checks.

Strict visitation rules were adopted to check the spread of the virus, but they have resulted in painful situations of patients relying on phones or tablets for emotional conversations with loved ones.

“It is terrible to have someone in the hospital and then that person is isolated, not being able to see their family and friends,” Cuomo said.

Nine of the hospitals participating are in New York City, with the rest spread out around the state.

Cuomo made the announcement as COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline. There are an average of 335 new hospitals admissions a day.

There were 105 new deaths recorded Monday.

People cheered for medical workers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

Memorial day

New York will allow Memorial Day ceremonies with up to 10 people despite statewide lockdown rules, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Ceremonies marking the Monday holiday with 10 or fewer people will be allowed by the state, but at the discretion of local governments, Cuomo said. Nonessential gatherings have been barred in New York since March, but the governor said honoring the sacrifices of military members is an “important tradition.”

Localities can also stage vehicle parades, which have become more popular during the pandemic.

“This is important to many, many families all across this state,” the governor said at his daily briefing. “It’s important to the veterans that they be recognized, and I think we can do that, and I think we can do it safely.”

A Cuomo aide said the rule applies to traditional activities like wreath layings and that social distance rules will still apply.

Christopher Dunn, legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Cuomo appears to be talking about selectively applying the state’s gathering prohibition, which would be clearly unconstitutional.

“He’s welcome to support people who want to salute veterans, but people who want to criticize veterans are also entitled to have demonstrations, or people who have any other message,” Dunn said.

New York officials have been gradually relaxing lockdown rules since the peak of the outbreak.

Cuomo said that Albany and the surrounding Capital Region were on track to begin relaxing some business restrictions Wednesday, which would make it the seventh region to start opening in upstate New York since last week.

New York City remains under the economic lockdown along with Long Island and the mid-Hudson Valley, which includes the city’s northern suburbs.

Barry Gross of Little Valley, N.Y., had his first day back at work at Colecraft Commercial Furnishings in Jamestown, N.Y., on Tuesday as part of New York state’s Phase One easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

School year stretches into summer for one in six students

New York City’s virus-disrupted school year will extend into the summer for 177,700 youngsters, or about one in six students in the public school system, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

“We see this as a summer where unprecedented learning can happen,” de Blasio said at his daily coronavirus briefing.

School buildings have been closed since March 16 in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and efforts to move instruction online were hampered by the fact that many students lacked devices for connecting to their virtual classrooms. De Blasio said 284,000 internet-enabled devices have been delivered to students who need them.

Instruction will be online in the summer as well, but de Blasio has said he hopes students will be able to return to school buildings in September.

Summer school will be five days a week for high school students and four days for children in grades 3 through 8, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said. It will include virtual field trips and one-on-one check-ins with guidance counselors and social workers.

The six-week summer session will be either required or suggested for students at risk of being held back, Carranza said.

There are at least 102,000 students who will be required to participate in the online summer session if they want to be promoted to the next grade, a city Department of Education spokeswoman said. That’s more than double the 44,000 students who were required to attended summer school in 2019.

NYPD firefighters cheered for medical workers at NYU Langone Medical Center on Tuesday. Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

Line-of-duty benefits

De Blasio said he will urge state lawmakers to pass legislation providing line-of-duty death benefits to the families of New York City employees who died of COVID-19.

“We need to take this weight off the shoulders of the families of these valiant New Yorkers,” said de Blasio, who said 270 city employees have died of the virus so far.

Unions representing city workers and local elected officials have been pushing for the death benefit.

“We are glad that Mayor de Blasio has finally come around to recognizing the heroes of this crisis, ” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “But it’s a long way from a press conference to legislation, so we will hold our applause until we see something in writing.”

De Blasio said the benefits should go to the survivors of all city employees, not just uniformed service members. The city employees lost to COVID-19 include dozens of teachers and school paraprofessionals.

De Blasio said he did not know how much it would cost to provide the benefit.

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