NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases grows, more schools and universities are closed across the area.
New York now has more cases than Washington state.
The governor also said if any students test positive statewide, their schools must close for at least 24 hours.
"So that we can do an assessment of the situation and the facts, and then make a determination going forward given the facts in the particular school district," Cuomo said.
A stunning 18% of students stayed home from New Rochelle schools Monday, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported. That's six times higher than the 3% of a typical day.
"I'm a little upset about the confusion of it," said Allan Fishbein. He has a student at Albert Leonard middle school, where a staff member is home under quarantine after possible COVID-19 exposure.
Fishbein was listening closely as Cuomo spoke Monday morning.
"New Rochelle is a significant hot spot," Cuomo said. "We have closed the schools. Now the question will be the duration."
In fact, New Rochelle schools were not closed on Monday. The district was open, and leadership wants to keep it that way.
"We know having them in school is best place for them to be. It's a hardship on families as well," said Superintendent Laura Feijoo.
Feijoo said the governor's office clarified the CDC "may consider closing" New Rochelle schools, and any closing would last weeks.
New Rochelle said schools are deep cleaned every night, with no students or staff testing positive so far.
"If our decision is based on fear, we'll be making knee-jerk reactions to a situation that demands a high level of contemplation and respect," said Board of Education president Amy Moselhi.
"I do believe that keeping them open until there's a first case is probably the wisest move, because the students in New Rochelle are not like the students in Scarsdale. Some people really need the services that that are provided in our school district," said parent Lauren Pekats.
Last night, schools in the neighboring Scarsdale district said a middle school faculty member tested positive for the virus. So all schools are shutting their doors until March 18 to disinfect buildings and stop the spread.
"I think it was necessary. Just listening, in Italy they were saying they wished they'd done all their closures a week early," said parent Nicky Ungar.
"It's scary," one woman told CBS2's John Dias. "There are a number of people in Westchester County that have been contracted."
The list of closed schools includes Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Greenacres, Heathcote and Quaker Ridge elementary schools, as well as both middle and high schools.
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"We were just sort of like, 'Oh brother.' That was our reaction, like, 'Oh, really?'" said father Chip Rich. "But I do know that there's lots of cases in this area, and I think they're just trying to get ahead of it."
"It makes sense. People need to stay safe," another woman added.
One mom said the high schoolers will still be plenty busy via the internet.
"I think the teachers will be in touch soon. They're going to be giving the kids work," Lori Reich said. "School from home. You know it's 2020, it's OK."
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Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick said the school district is following protocols.
"Don't panic. We have very, very good resources here. The health care system in the state of New York is outstanding, second to none. We're all working very well together," he said. "Right now, it's all about public safety and making sure our residents are safe and containing."
Several area colleges are shifting to remote classes, including Columbia University, Fordham University, Barnard College, Iona College, Hofstra University on Long Island and Princeton University in New Jersey. Also, Juilliard will be going to remote classes when students return from break on March 16.
"We all come from different places. If we don't have to be here where it is spreading, why be here? We can go someplace safer," said Iona student Nicole Bianco.
Students and parents should check their schools' websites for the latest updates.
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