State Watch

Cuomo gets heated with reporters over NYC schools: ‘What are you talking about?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) got into a heated exchange with reporters on Wednesday over their questions about New York City schools closing on Thursday.

Tensions grew after the first question of Cuomo’s Wednesday press conference, in which Wall Street Journal reporter Jimmy Vielkind asked about whether schools would remain open on Thursday. 

The briefing started about an hour before New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that the public schools would shut down

In his question, Vielkind said there was confusion over whether city officials or the governor had the authority to shut down schools after Cuomo said the area could be declared an orange zone and schools would subsequently shut down. 

“So what’s going on?” the reporter asked. “Does the city still have the ability to close its schools? Are you now taking control and saying that you have the power to make this decision? And for the millions of parents who want to know are the schools gonna open tomorrow in New York City?”

Cuomo started off in his answer by telling the reporter, “Let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone.” adding that Vielkind was “100 percent wrong.”

He said that school districts chose a positivity rate within state parameters that would trigger a shutdown, unless the state identified the area as at least an orange risk zone, which he later explained would override the school district’s rules. Cuomo said Brooklyn and Queens were orange and red zones weeks earlier, prompting school closures. 

“Don’t you remember that?” Cuomo said before asking, “OK, so what are you talking about?”  ‘You’re now gonna override’ — we did it already. That’s the law. An orange zone and a red zone. Follow the facts.”

“I’m confused, and I think parents are still confused as well,” Vielkind said.

“No, they’re not confused. You’re confused,” the governor responded, adding, “Read the law and you won’t be confused.”

The next reporter backed up Vielkind’s question asking if the schools will “be open tomorrow” in the city.

“That’s the question,” the reporter said. “I think Jimmy’s correct in asking that question. I don’t think it’s obnoxious at all.”

“Well, I don’t really care what you think. Of course you’ll agree with him because you’re in the same business with him,” Cuomo replied before explaining how the zone designations for microclusters override school district rules.

Several other reporters expressed support for Vielkind’s question over Twitter. 

The press conference was held shortly before de Blasio announced public schools would close starting Thursday as officials are concerned about rising coronavirus infections in the city and across the country. 

“We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19,” de Blasio tweeted Wednesday.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Coronavirus coronavirus school closures COVID-19 New York New York City New York public schools Pandemic public schools schools

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