New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday that public schools in the largest US city would stay closed until the end of the school year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, even as the state's governor stressed that the decision was his to make.
"There is nothing easy about this decision," the mayor said at a news conference, before adding that "it clearly will help us save lives."
But hours later, Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted the authority to make such a call was his.
"You can't make a decision just within New York City without coordinating that decision with the whole metropolitan region, because it all works together," Cuomo said.
According to legal experts, the mayor does have the authority to close schools — but that authority can be ended by an order from the governor.
"Until the governor actually overrules the mayor either through a contrary order or by a superseding order, the mayor's order stands," said Roderick Hills, a professor at New York University's law school.
The governor said he understood de Blasio's position, "which is he wants to close them until June, and we may do that, but we're going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities."
Freddi Goldstein, a de Blasio spokeswoman, noted on Twitter that the two Democratic officials had differed earlier on the timing of shelter-in-place orders.
"We were right then and we're right now," she said. "Schools will remain closed."
The two men are longtime rivals and have butted heads before.
De Blasio unsuccessfully sought the party's presidential nomination this year; Cuomo is the son of a governor who has seen his profile grow with his daily coronavirus briefings.
The death toll in New York City now stands at 5,820, according to the latest count from Johns Hopkins University. But the rate of hospitalizations has slowed, authorities say.
New York state, with 19 million people, has registered more than 170,000 cases of the coronavirus, with more than 8,600 deaths.
De Blasio said he decided on the continued closures after conferring late Friday with Anthony Fauci, who is leading the government's scientific response to the coronavirus.
The city closed its public schools on March 16 as the virus spread rapidly.
The closure affects 1.1 million students in what is by far the country's largest public school district.
Families without computers are being loaned city-owned devices for online learning; 175,000 have been distributed.
The mayor said he hoped classes could resume normally in September at the start of the new school year.
Cuomo had earlier extended the closing of schools statewide to April 29.
De Blasio also said Saturday that 6,000 single adults living in homeless shelters — one-third of the total — would be transferred to hotels "to make sure people that need to be isolated are isolated."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)