Incoming Governor Hochul Says She Will Prioritize Vaccines
Across New York, the Delta variant has seen a surge in new cases and hospital admissions, creating a major public health challenge for New York Governor Kathy Hochul that will last between now and the day she officially took office two weeks will likely increase.
Ms. Hochul, who is currently Lieutenant Governor, declined to say much concrete about the direction she would take on the state’s Covid-19 policy if Governor Andrew M. Cuomo resigns. Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday following a sexual harassment scandal.
But Ms. Hochul, a moderate Democrat from the Buffalo area who has held back as lieutenant governor, will soon face a number of tough decisions on everything from guidelines on mask rules to vaccine mandates.
In her first press conference on Wednesday as budding governor, Ms. Hochul did not say whether she would declare a new state of emergency to respond to the soaring transmission, as Mr Cuomo did in March last year at the height of the pandemic, a restriction that is was not lifted until the end of June 2021.
She said she will use the next two weeks – while Mr. Cuomo remains governor – to consult with health professionals and federal health officials as she formulates a plan. She added that increasing vaccinations would be her focus.
“I can assure everyone that we will look at all of the options, but I believe the key has been in front of our eyes for months,” she said. “It’s so easy that more people are getting vaccinated.”
Although the number of new infections and hospital admissions registered on a daily basis is well below last winter’s highs, the current totals still represent a dramatic increase since the end of June, when the epidemic seemed to be easing.
On Tuesday, the seven-day average of new infections in New York state hit 3,088, up from a low of 307 on June 26, according to a New York Times database. Hospital stays rose from 823 to 1,478 in the same period.
Ms. Hochul said she will work in communities with high infection rates and low vaccination rates to combat vaccination resistance and improve access to vaccinations. The vaccines currently approved in the US protect most fully vaccinated people from serious illness from Covid-19, including the Delta variant.
But to vaccinate enough people to contain the surge in cases and reduce hospital stays, it may take more than just encouragement from officials.
Understand the state of vaccination and masking requirements in the United States
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public places indoors in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidelines offered in May. See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have implemented their own mask guidelines. The battle over masks is controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- Vaccination regulations. . . and B.Factories. Private companies are increasingly demanding coronavirus vaccines for employees with different approaches. Such mandates are legally permissible and have been confirmed in legal challenges.
- College and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require a vaccination against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. On August 11, California announced that teachers and staff at both public and private schools would have to get vaccinated or have regular tests, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey published in August found that many American parents of school-age children are against mandatory vaccines for students but are more likely to support masking requirements for students, teachers, and staff who are not vaccinated.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large health systems require their employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, due to rising case numbers due to the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their workforce.
- new York. On August 3, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that workers and customers will be required to provide proof of vaccination when dining indoors, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations. Municipal hospital staff must also be vaccinated or have weekly tests. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for the country’s 1.3 million active soldiers “by mid-September at the latest. President Biden announced that all civil federal employees would need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular tests, social distancing, mask requirements and travel restrictions.
In New York, elected leaders have been reluctant to impose vaccination requirements on workers – be it in hospitals, schools or nursing homes. Instead, many unvaccinated government and health care workers are subject to rules that require weekly, or monthly, in the case of nursing home workers, to be checked out.
Public health experts predict that the willingness to impose vaccination regulations could potentially be greater as cases and hospital admissions continue to rise. In all of New York state, about 69.4 percent of people 18 and over are fully vaccinated, compared with 67 percent in New York City.
Ms Hochul also faces questions about allegations that Mr Cuomo’s aides undercounted nursing home deaths from Covid-19 in the past year to cover up the true death toll. When asked on Wednesday whether she would publish full data on deaths in nursing homes, Ms. Hochul avoided the question.
“My administration will be completely transparent when I am governor,” she said. “I’m not governor yet.”