New NYC grading plan comes amid more signs of virus recovery

NEW YORK (AP) — COVID-19 hospital admissions dipped below 1,000 and military jets soared in tribute above New York City. Meanwhile, city schools are adopting a new grading system.

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:

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THE NUMBERS

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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 953.

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

The total number of patients hospitalized dropped to 12,646.

With caseloads dropping, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, sent to relieve stress on city hospitals at the height the pandemic, was set to depart Thursday.

Operations also appeared to be winding down at the temporary federal medical facility at the Javits Center. There were 69 patients inside the cavernous Manhattan convention center Tuesday, according to the Cuomo administration. The Pentagon said patients were in the process of being transferred to local hospitals with an expected “completion of mission” around Friday. A Cuomo aide said Javits will be able to be used as a medical center, if needed.

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SUBWAY HOMELESSNESS

Complaints and concerns are building about conditions on New York City’s subways, where homeless people have long taken refuge. Their plight, and the problems it poses for them and others, have become more visible during the pandemic.

“That is disgusting, what is happening on those subway cars,” Cuomo said at a news briefing Tuesday, when the Daily News of New York devoted its front page to chronicling incidents of indecent exposure, filth, people stretching out on seats and other problems on the subways. Cuomo called the situation “disrespectful” to essential workers who need to commute and unsafe for homeless people who are congregating in trains without face masks or other protections.

The state controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subways. But the city polices them, and their leaders often squabble over responsibility for the system’s problems.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city would send more homeless-outreach workers to end-of-the-line stations to try to persuade people to come off the trains and into shelter. He also asked the MTA to close and clean 10 such stations from midnight to 5 a.m.

Meanwhile, advocates for the homeless have called for providing hotel rooms to people living on the streets.

“What we’re missing in all of this … is an actual real solution to help people who are homeless and taking refuge in the subways” and are concerned about potentially being exposed to the virus in shelters, coalition policy director Giselle Routhier said Tuesday.

De Blasio said Tuesday that the city has provided hotel rooms to thousands of homeless people who were in shelters. He has said that shelter residents with COVID-19, those who are senior citizens, and those in crowded shelters would be given priority for some 6,000 rooms.

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CITY GRADING SYSTEM

New York City schools will implement a new grading system for the remainder of the coronavirus-disrupted school year, 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 struggled since schools were shuttered March 16, 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.

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.

De Blasio announced on April 11 that the schools would remain shuttered through the rest of the school year but 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 school administrators were looking for a way to give students credit for completing schoolwork without penalizing children for things that are beyond their control.

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MILITARY 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 planes later flew 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.

The flyovers fulfill training requirements for the pilots, who must fly a minimum number of hours to maintain proficiency, according to military officials, who said the squadrons have had to cancel many performances since the virus outbreak. The flyovers do not involve additional costs to taxpayers, officials said.

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OUT OF PRISON

Former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos was released Tuesday from prison to confinement at his Rockville Centre home after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The 72-year-old Skelos has been serving a four-year and three-month prison term after he was convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery.

Prosecutors opposed his request for compassionate release. A judge had not yet ruled but the federal Bureau of Prisons decided he could return home as a result of the coronavirus threat.

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Associated Press writers Karen Matthews contributed to this report. Hill and Villeneuve contributed from Albany, N.Y.

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