WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Monday was the first day back at school for many of New York’s kindergarten through 12th-grade students, though some students will learn remotely.

Health officials say they will monitor whether the in-person classes cause any outbreaks of COVID-19. 

The New York State Health Department has set up a dashboard for parents who want to see whether anyone in their child’s school district has tested positive for the coronavirus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new site a few days ago. 

A new poll finds New Yorkers are not optimistic about the fall, with the overwhelming majority saying they expect another COVID-19 outbreak in the coming months.

The rate of transmission of the virus in New York has been under 1% for over three weeks, but that has not calmed fears, according to the Siena College Research Institute survey.

Schools in New York are busy finalizing plans to partially reopen, and many colleges and universities have already begun classes. But those who work at the schools, including teachers and professors, say guidelines for when to wear masks need to be more comprehensive to help prevent spread of the coronavirus.  

The state’s largest teachers union, New York State United Teachers, wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, asking him to revise the policy on masks in schools to make them mandatory while in the classroom. 

Over the weekend, the State University of New York at Oneonta became the first in the 64-campus system to shut down in-person classes for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak. State and college officials are trying to prevent that closure from becoming a trend. 

Newly appointed SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, ordered the closure of in-person classes after several off-campus house parties were connected to 105 students, or 3% of the campus population, testing positive for coronavirus. 

More schools around New York say they are scaling back on plans for in-person learning and expanding remote instruction, citing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s temporary 20% cut in state aid to schools which was enacted to help close a pandemic related state budget deficit.

Now, the attorney who won a court case over a lack of school funding, Michael Rebell, says the cuts might be unconstitutional, and is looking into seeking  an injunction against them.   

  

Gov.  Andrew Cuomo calls a federal Department of Justice probe into New York state’s nursing home policies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic “political” and says President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is singling out democratic governors.

The probe will include examining a March 25 directive from Cuomo that required nursing homes to re-admit residents who had been infected with COVID-19 when they were discharged from the hospitals. Critics say that led to unnecessary deaths in the homes.

As schools in New York State grapple with reopening plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also facing a temporary 20% cut in state funding, that could become permanent.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office is withholding one-fifth of the aid owed to school districts in the first of several payments owed to schools over the course of the school year.

  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls changes in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that ease testing standards for Americans exposed to someone with COVID-19 “political propaganda,” and says he won’t follow them.

The CDC guidelines on who should be tested for the coronavirus now say that anyone who has had "close contact", within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 infected individual for at least 15 minutes, should get tested.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed executive orders that he says will help ensure safe and secure voting in November’s elections.

Cuomo says the fall elections will be one of the most critical and controversial in modern history.

He’s already signed bills approved by the legislature that will allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be an authorized reason for voting by absentee ballot, among other things.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that there won’t be any high school football games, wrestling matches or ice hockey contests this fall.

The governor did issue new guidelines to phase in matches for other types of school sports, however.

Cuomo says sports that are considered “low risk,” including tennis, soccer, field hockey, cross country track and swimming, can resume as early as Sept. 21 and teams can compete with other schools within their own region of the state. 

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