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New COVID-related syndrome keeps schools closed over summer

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Just a few weeks ago, few if anyone even knew this was something doctors — and parents — should be looking out for. But a new syndrome among children, called MIS-C, is starting to be identified in a number of states and countries. And because of it, schools will remain closed through the summer.

"This is one of those things that, the more you look, the more they're going to find," Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared during his daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday. "So when we're talking about schools, again, the facts have changed from the experts. Because there are no experts on this COVID virus. And I learned that the hard way."

The state is investigating 157 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, according to Cuomo. The syndrome appears to be surfacing in children who have tested positive for the coronavirus, or tested positive for antibodies indicated they had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. 

Common symptoms include fever, irritability or sluggishness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, red or pink eyes, enlarged lymph node on one side of the neck, red cracked lips or red tongue, or swollen hands and feet, according to the city's health department. 

The city, in the meantime, may have reduced the number of cases the governor identified, to 89, after screening each child through guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The city identified 158 cases, according to city health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. Of those remaining, 26 were determined to not have met CDC criteria for the syndrome, and another 43 are under investigation.

"The new syndrome is very alarming," Barbot said, in a release. "However, we're acting aggressively to ensure children get the early care they need to help them make a full recovery."

Although the number of cases is limited, there are too many unknowns to expose children to the coronavirus any more than necessary, Cuomo said — especially in a school environment. Summer school will continue throughout the state, but it will be through distance learning platforms put together a couple months back after the governor first shuttered all campuses.

But Cuomo isn't ready to close schools down for the fall just yet. He has asked school administrators to put together plans for reopening, and have them submitted to his office for approval by July. If the MIS-C situation is under control, as well as the coronavirus outbreak in the state overall, Cuomo says he'll start approval physical campus reopenings for September.

"We don't want to make a decision until there are more facts," Cuomo said. "As the facts keep changing, you don't make any decision until it's timely, so you have the most recent facts to make a decision."

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