New York takes over its own virus testing, SUNY and CUNY classes going online

Legislative Gazette photo by Emma Misiaszek
Gov. Andrew Cuomo moves forward with testing for the coronavirus, instructing 28 private labs to start as soon as they can.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that New York state will contract with 28 private labs to increase testing capacity for the novel coronavirus. Following a call with each lab, the governor announced he has instructed them to begin testing immediately as soon as they are ready.

They all specialize in virology and are routine partners with the New York State Department of Health.

“Frankly, we are not in a position where we can rely on the CDC or the FDA to manage this testing protocol, so we will be moving forward with that,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the state is running on three tracks in response to the virus: testing, reduced density and communication. Cuomo criticized the lack of testing occurring in the U.S., comparing China’s 200,000 tests per day rate to the U.S. ‘s 5,000 total number of tests to date.

As of March 11, there are 39 more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in New York to 213, the largest cluster consisting of 121 people in Westchester county.

In order to reduce density, Cuomo announced that all State Universities of New York, and all City Universities of New York will be transitioning to a “distance learning” model starting March 19. A majority of residential students will be sent home with the exception of those who have nowhere to go, or those who need to attend classes where in-person instruction is necessary. All other classes will be held online.

“If students have hardships where they have nowhere to go and they’re dorm students, then I’m sure the individual campuses will take that into consideration,” Cuomo said.

Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa, said it is likely the majority of SUNY and CUNY colleges will not be holding face-to-face graduation ceremonies this May.

Cuomo also spoke with hundreds of business leaders in the state and asked them to voluntarily reduce density by scheduling different work shifts and allowing employees to telecommute and work from home.

A bill is currently making its way through the state Legislature that would guarantee people are paid by their employer if they are put under quarantine. The state is also promising paid leave for all state employees who are quarantined.

“The facts here do not justify the amount of fear,” Cuomo said, emphasizing the importance of disseminating correct information concerning the coronavirus. He said that in New York, 32 of the 212 people who tested positive for the virus are in the hospital, whereas the rest are quarantined and are recovering in their homes.

Decisions have yet to be made regarding the state’s Democratic primary on April 28.