Virus deaths, hospitalizations down in New York

NEW YORK (WBEN/AP) —  New COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York state are averaging under 1,000 a day for the first time this month, the latest sign of slowly decreasing pressure on the health care system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday that hospitalizations and deaths from the outbreak were both continuing to tick down. The daily death toll dropped again, with 335 deaths reported Monday — the lowest daily tally recorded in April and the third straight day under 400.

There have been 17,638 deaths in New York since the outbreak began, according to state figures. The state total doesn’t include more than 5,200 New York City deaths that were attributed to the virus on death certificates but weren’t confirmed by a lab test.

At the peak of the outbreak earlier this month, there had been more than 3,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations a day, based on a three-day rolling average. The comparable figure released Tuesday was about 950.

“It’s still a significant number of people," Cuomo said. “But overall you see the numbers coming down, so that’s good news.”

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SCHOOLS

New York City schools will implement a new grading system for the remainder of the coronavirus-disrupted school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Elementary school students will be graded “meeting the standards” or “needing improvement” while high school students will have a pass-fail grading option, de Blasio said.

Acknowledging that some students have made a relatively smooth transition to online learning since schools were shuttered last month while others have struggled, de Blasio said students who need help to catch up will be given academic support through the summer and into next fall.

“We have to recognize that some kids are having a tougher time because of this crisis, emotionally and academically,” de Blasio said. He added, ”Here’s the bottom line: Every student is going to be able to get the help they need.”

Students in grades K-5 will be graded “meets standards” or “needing improvement," de Blasio said, while middle school students will be graded “meets standards,” “needs improvement” or “course in progress.”

High schools will use traditional letter grades, but a student who receives a passing grade in a class can take a “pass” grade that won't affect their grade point average, de Blasio said. High school students who haven't mastered the coursework will get a “course in progress” grade.

New York City school buildings have been closed since March 16. De Blasio announced on April 11 that the schools would remain shuttered through the rest of the school year but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the decision whether to reopen schools was up to him. Cuomo has not indicated that he wants schools in the city to reopen before the end of the academic year in late June.

De Blasio initially resisted closing school buildings and moving instruction online in part because many of the system's 1.1 million students lacked internet access. He said that 247,000 iPads will be in hands of students who requested them by Thursday.

Educators around the nation have struggled with how to grade students after the coronavirus pandemic closed schools.

Officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City, announced earlier this month that no student would get an F and no one’s grade would be worse than what it was on March 13, the last day of on-campus classes.

Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite said last week that district officials were looking for a way to give students credit for completing schoolwork without penalizing children for things that are beyond their control. “These are the things that we’re still working out,” he said.

Other coronavirus-related developments in New York:

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MILITARY FLYOVER

New York City flyover

Jets from Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds flew over New York City in a tribute to the medical personnel, first responders and other essential workers involved in fighting the pandemic.

The planes from the two demonstration squadrons flew in formation over New York and Newark beginning at noon. The formation was set to fly over Trenton, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience,” said Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S. Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader. “Thank you to all of those in essential industries keeping our nation moving forward. We will get through this. We are all in this together.”