BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday she will work with localities, the state health department, and other health agencies to put in place a mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing program for unvaccinated public and charter school employees.
“I’m willing to make tough decisions any day anywhere,” said Hochul, one week after becoming Governor. “Our school staff, anybody who enters that building will have to be vaccinated or undergo mandatory testing and we’re in the process of getting the legal clearance for that as I speak.”
The idea did not come as a shock to the leader of the Buffalo teachers federation. “We are all interested in erring on the side of being cautious,” said Phil Rumore, who represents more than three thousand unionized Buffalo teachers. “I would hope that they also allow people to get voluntarily tested too, because let’s say you feel that you might’ve been exposed and if you do have the vaccine, so I think it shoulkd be both if you’re not vaccinated. We’re okay with mandatory that you get tested as long as it’s not the invasive test.”
In the Ken-Ton School District, classes begin Wednesday. Kenmore Teachers Association president Peter Stuhlmiller estimates about 90 percent of the teachers are already vaccinated. “I think it is a compromise. We certainly don’t want to see the very few teachers in Ken Ton that have, for whatever reason, not vaccinated and that of the few that are not vaccinated, most of them it may be because they’re physician has not recommended it.”
“One of the takeaways from being in the trenches with you? There is a role for state government, and a role for local government, and I’m prepared to transition quickly as we’re now fighting this new wave, the delta variant,” Gov. Hochul said. “This is brutal, and people will succumb to this because it is raging. It’s more virulent. People are spreading it and they don’t even know it.”
Gov. Hochul said she won’t be micro-managing from the governor’s office, but will be giving guidance.
“I will not impose guidance without leaning on local public health agencies,” she said. “I know there’s not a single person who wants a rerun of that horror movie that we had last year.”
The governor said New York is doing comparatively well in terms of vaccination, but says the state can sill do better.
“We can do better on vaccination rate,” Gov. Hochul said. “I know there’s hesitance, but that is now an excuse that is gone. We need to get it approved for younger children. We’re not doing that very well, getting our 12 to 17-year-olds vaccinated, and they’re susceptible. That is not good enough. New York has 72% vaccination, and we need to get more people vaccinated.”
Gov. Hochul’s full briefing
The governor said the state’s seven-day average positivity rate continues to creep up, but she added that hospitals are presently in good shape statewide in terms of capacity.
“We have the capacity, but if anything shifts, we know how to get the resourced,” Gov. Hochul said. “Right now we are in good shape. Hospitals are getting filled with the unvaccinated. If you are vaccinated, getting COVID feels like the flu. The hospitals have delta variant patients that are unvaccinated. That’s something that must be fixed.”
With school resuming in the coming weeks, the governor said children need to be supported safely, including the implementation of a universal masking policy in schools.
“It’s been a brutal year and a half four our children,” Gov. Hochul said. “They’ve been denied a support system. We can no longer hemorrhage the education of our children, and it has to stop the fall. The greatest anxiety pertains to the safety of our students. I’ve heard that the mask mandate is uncontroversial. We’ll have them masked. Kids are resilient, they can do it.”
Aside from masking, the governor said she was also “in the process of getting legal clearance” to mandate vaccinations for school staff, with a weekly testing opt-out option.
According to a press release from the governor’s office Tuesday afternoon:
“Getting children back to school where they can learn most effectively and protecting the students, teachers and staff are top priorities for Governor Hochul. Building on the state department of health’s directive requiring universal masking for anyone entering schools, the governor will be working with localities, the department of health and the Public Health and Health Planning Council in the days ahead to implement a mandatory weekly COVID testing for school staff who are not vaccinated.
Following the department of health’s announcement last week that all staff in health care facilities need to be vaccinated, the state is exploring how to expand this requirement to include staff at all state-regulated facilities.”
The governor then announced she was making $65 million available to local governments to help them set up mass vaccination sites for upcoming booster shots.
“We all know how to get this done, we know how to do this, and we know this has to be a targeted approach,” Gov. Hochul said. “As long as we get approval, and we want to make sure the infrastructure is in place. We’re going to get this to them and we’re going to work with you — $65 million available to localities to help set up mass vaccination sites.”
The governor said this strategy will help communities organizer where they are instead of a top-down level approach.
“You know your communities better than anyone,” Gov. Hochul said. “Boosters are important. We have turned the page, and we have to be prepared. The last thing I ever want to do is have another shutdown like the one we saw last year.”
Monday’s statewide COVID-19 data, from the governor’s office, is summarized briefly below:
- Test Results Reported – 107,325
- Total Positive – 4,147
- Percent Positive – 3.86%
- 7-Day Average Percent Positive – 3.31%
- Patient Hospitalization – 2,186 (+38)
- Patients Newly Admitted – 235
- Patients in ICU – 468 (+23)
- Patients in ICU with Intubation – 229 (+7)
- Total Discharges – 192,654 (+201)
- Total vaccine doses administered – 23,619,551
- Total vaccine doses administered over past 24 hours – 36,132
- Total vaccine doses administered over past 7 days – 356,922
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose – 76.8%
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series – 69.7%
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose (CDC) – 79.6%
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series (CDC) – 71.5%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose – 64.8%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series – 58.4%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose (CDC) – 67.2%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series (CDC) – 59.9%
Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:
|Region||Friday, August 27, 2021||Saturday, August 28, 2021||Sunday, August 29, 2021|
|Central New York||4.41%||4.13%||4.26%|
|New York City||2.58%||2.53%||2.52%|
|Western New York||4.13%||4.04%||4.02%|
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.