New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he does not see a need to close schools statewide and would leave such decisions to the localities.

His statement comes as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio faces pressure from the leaders of the teachers union and the City Council to close schools as cases of the new coronavirus surge. The mayor said schools in the most populous U.S. city keep children safe, give them first-line access to health care through the school nurse, allow parents to work and provide needy students with two meals a day.

“It puts tremendous strain on families if they can’t have their kids in school,” de Blasio said on WNYC radio.

At a City Hall briefing later Friday, the mayor said school attendance fell to 68% on Friday from 85% the day before. Calling it “obviously something worrisome,” he said he hoped it was temporary.

Several New York-area religious and public schools have already closed in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, and the states of Michigan, Maryland, Ohio and Kentucky, have canceled in-school instruction, as have some nations. New York state now has 421 cases, the most in the country, with 154 cases in New York City.

To receive state aid, schools must have a minimum of 180 days of instruction. Schools that are closed by a state or local health official due to the virus will not be penalized, and will still receive aid if they are unable to make up missed instructional days, Cuomo said in an executive order released Friday.

“The state at this point, with these numbers, does not believe we need to close schools statewide,” Cuomo said. “If a locality feels they should close schools, either because they think there’s a health reason, or frankly because they think there’s an anxiety-based reason, I understand that.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for programs to provide childcare, especially to health-care workers, and meal-delivery to students who currently receive such aid in school.

“Teaching and learning cannot take place under these circumstances,” Johnson said.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said “more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities.”

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