COVID-19 clusters have been popping up in areas around New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo in recent days has said local governments are not doing their job in enforcing safety protocols and said he is worried about the lack of testing in schools.
“On the schools in these areas, not all of them have been tested,” Governor Cuomo said in a press conference Monday. “So we don’t have data on all of the schools in these hot spot clusters.”
However, the lack of a statewide testing mandate in schools was one of the main concerns going into the school year.
When the state identified 20 zip codes with COVID-19 clusters, the governor recommended that schools start testing students in those areas, yet it was a suggestion, not a mandate.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said this has left local governments to come up with a plan of their own.
“There isn’t a statewide protocol,” Molinaro said. “There isn’t statewide access to state testing sites and that has created a bit of chaos and a little bit of confusion. Keep the comments specific and we’re right there with him partnering to try to effectuate good public health. When it’s broad like this, it’s chaotic and confusing at best.”
Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, said there needs to be a state managed and funded COVID-19 testing structure that works with all levels of government.
Up until now, it has been left to individual local governments to coordinate and implement their own testing procedures.
“The governor came out today talking about schools being the number one super spreader structure. So what are we doing about that?” Acquario questioned. “Do we have testing protocols right now consistent with all the counties? No we don’t. We have Central New York, which relies on Upstate Medical to do saliva-based testing, but that is not available in Dutchess County. That is not available in Albany County.”
County leaders also said they are disheartened by the governor’s broad criticism against local governments.
While many of his comments are believed to have been aimed at New York City, officials on the local level say it’s confusing.
“It is disheartening to hear disparaging comments,” Acquario said. “The blame has got to stop and the cooperation needs to ramp up. It’s one New York. We all care about public health and we’re all doing the very best that we can with the resources we have.”
“I don’t want to be disparaging, I just don’t think it’s helpful and I don’t think it’s necessary to have a governor or anyone sort of pointing down at us and saying 'you’re not doing your jobs,'” Molinaro explained. “We have been quite frankly and that’s how New York has weathered the storm and ultimately responded and were the ones on the front line.”
Schools in just New York City hot spots will close starting Tuesday for now.