By Gabriella Borter and Maria Caspani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday said that all school districts in his state, once the epicenter of the nation's COVID-19 crisis, could open for in-person learning in the fall based on their current low infection rates of the virus.
All New York regions have met the reopening threshold that Cuomo set in July, the governor said on Friday, with infection rates of the disease below 5% over on a 14-day average.
The rate of COVID-19 tests that came back positive on Thursday was 1% statewide, Cuomo said.
"If you look at our infection rate we are probably in the best situation in the country right now," Cuomo said. "If anybody can open schools, we can open schools."
Cuomo said school districts will have the flexibility to decide whether to invite students back to the classroom full-time or do partially remote learning, saying there is no "one-size-fits-all."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a stricter threshold of a 3% infection rate for schools in the largest school district in the country to open, and last month released a "blended" reopening plan where students would spend two days at school and three learning at home, and then reverse the sequence in the following week.
Cuomo said he wanted school districts to post reopening plans by the end of next week and explain how remote learning, COVID-19 testing and tracing would work under their proposed plans. The governor, who said he has been "deluged" with calls from worried parents, urged districts to hold talks with parents and teachers to assuage those concerns and keep all parties informed.
The Trump administration has adamantly pushed for schools to reopen for in-person learning in the fall, but coronavirus outbreaks around the country have thwarted efforts to do so safely.
Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the U.S. will be holding all classes online to start the school year after the city has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases, the district said on Wednesday. Los Angeles Unified Schools District, the country's second largest, will also be holding classes remotely this fall.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chris Reese and Aurora Ellis)