Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the private and public schools in the state’s red and orange zones, which had been ordered to close four weeks ago to stem the spread of coronavirus, can now reopen under stricter guidance on repeated, mandatory testing for every student and school employee.

The governor's office sent out guidance Friday evening stating that reopening schools have to wait at least four calendar days before re-admitting people into buildings: "48 hours to ensure lack of infectious contact in the school, and additional time for testing," as well as ensuring that every student, teacher and staffer engaged in in-person learning present a negative test result within the past seven days before their return to in-person learning.

Once the schools are reopened, there will be mandatory weekly testing of 25 percent of the school community. In a departure from the city's school protocols that seeks a random sampling of students for testing, the state is requiring every person inside school buildings be part of the testing population — so with the weekly 25 percent groups, every member of an in-person school community will be completely tested by the fourth week. The cycle will then begin again, the state's guidance said.

The state will provide the affected schools with free rapid-result test kits.

During a call with reporters this afternoon, Cuomo said he had been speaking with school officials in the red and orange zones, which expressed a desire to reopen. He noted, “We are working to find ways to keep people safe but reopen."

Still, Cuomo's guidance outlined several triggers to closing a school again. If the weekly testing yields nine or more positive cases at a school, the building will shut down again and students transitioned to remote learning. If weekly testing yields more than 2 percent positivity in the school, the school will again shut down, Cuomo said. Outside of the city, that benchmark is set at 3 percent.

Cuomo’s standard for number of cases far exceeds the city Department of Education's protocols on shutting down schools if there are more than two unrelated cases in a building.

"New York City will review the State’s proposal when it is published and the Mayor will discuss details on Monday," said Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokesperson Avery Cohen in a brief email statement.

Cuomo’s October 6th directive closed about 124 schools at 169 locations (some schools have multiple campuses, and some buildings hold multiple schools) in the red and orange zones in Brooklyn and Queens. In the yellow zone, schools stayed open but were ordered to implement mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing of 20 percent of the in-person population.

Many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in the red and orange zones of Brooklyn defied the shutdown orders from the beginning, according to parents who spoke to Gothamist. One source said on Friday that the reopening decision was effectively meaningless, because “a very small minority actually closed or otherwise complied with restrictions.”

The guidance issued by the state said that schools that can't comply with the restrictions should remain remote-only, and schools that do not comply could be subject to closure orders, or "other fines and penalties."

Cuomo also announced the statewide positivity rate Thursday was 1.4 percent, the third-lowest in the country.

With Jake Offenhartz