Cuomo asks airlines to test passengers coming from UK

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to members of New York state’s Electoral College before voting for president and vice president in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he has asked airlines flying into the state from the United Kingdom to make all passengers take a COVID-19 test before they get on the plane.

The Democrat said at least two airlines, British Airways and Delta, had already agreed to comply. He is awaiting an answer from others, including Virgin Atlantic, but was hopeful they would also agree.

“All Delta customers traveling from the U.K. to New York will be required to take a PCR test (nasal swab test) 72 hours prior to departure adding another layer of safety when they travel,” a Delta spokesperson said via email.

Cuomo has been calling on the U.S. government to temporarily halt all flights from the U.K. because of the emergence there of a new strain of the coronavirus.

Numerous nations have already taken that step out of concern that the newly identified strain might be more easily transmitted.

“I think the United States should do what other countries have done, which is halt the travel,” Cuomo said, adding that too much was still unknown about whether the mutated virus would pose more of a threat. “I was on the phone with top experts all weekend. We don’t know if it’s more deadly. We don’t know how much more easily it’s transmitted.”

Cuomo added that he believed he had the legal authority as governor to ask airlines to test passengers in the absence of federal action.

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VACCINES IN NURSING HOMES

Cuomo said the state’s 85,000 nursing home residents began receiving vaccinations Monday morning under a federally run program.

It could take six weeks to vaccinate residents as well as many as 130,000 nursing home staffers, he said. Pharmacy workers who will administer the vaccines will also receive vaccinations themselves.

“The COVID-19 virus is the greatest public health threat our country has faced in most of our lifetimes, and our nursing home and assisted living residents and dedicated health care workers are on the front line of this pandemic,” said Stephen Hanse, President & CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living.

Hanse said assisted living residents and staff are next on New York vaccination priority list and will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in early 2021.

Cuomo said the state expects to receive another 630,000 doses by this week from Moderna and Pfizer. He said New York will add EMTs, coroners, medical examiners, funeral home workers and other group home workers to its priority list.

The number of new virus infections has begun to flatten in New York over the past week, according to the latest state Department of Health data.

The state averaged 10,400 new infections each day over the past seven days, up about 3% from a week ago and up 12% from two weeks ago.

Nearly 202,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in New York so far in December.

Hospitals statewide were treating about 6,340 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday, which is up 38% from two weeks ago, Cuomo said.

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NYC SCHOOLS

New York City’s public school system will conduct special social, emotional and academic behavioral screenings next year for students in 27 neighborhood hard hit by coronavirus, officials said.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the screenings, beginning in September, will allow educators to get a jump start on treating mental health issues related to the virus or the disruption of schooling that might linger into adulthood.

The city is hiring 150 additional social workers for the effort and will expand a partnership between schools and the city’s public hospital system.

Carranza said he’d like to bring such services to all city schools, but can’t currently afford it without outside funding.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, heads up the city’s mental health initiatives. She described the new screenings as an important extension of a child’s annual pediatric exam.

“Even in the best of times, this is a best practice,” McCray said. “Now, after COVID-19, it is more critical than ever.”

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Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Mary Esch contributed to this report.

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