BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) Certain members of the National Guard who have medical training may soon begin assisting in nursing homes across the state. The effort, announced Monday by Governor Kathy Hochul, is aimed at staffing more beds at nursing homes which have declared themselves ‘full.’

Now that the Omicron virus is in Ontario, it’s only a matter of time before it’s traced in Western New York, according to Governor Hochul, who says her main concern continues to be hospital capacity. She says hospital capacity is 10 percent lower than it was a year ago. That’s why she ordered any hospital with less than 10% capacity to stop elective surgeries starting Friday. And because many nursing homes are filled to capacity, she plans to deploy members of the National Guard to help.

“We have surveyed our National Guard resources< said Hochul. “We know that there are numbers who have EMT training or healthcare backgrounds and we can deploy them in a targeted way to the nursing home and healthcare facilities where they’re having a shortage.”

Looking longer term, National Guard members who do not have medical training will be encouraged to begin receiving EMT training in January, according to Hochul. “It’s a longer term solution, but it’s also going to be very helpful if they have to respond to a natural disaster or hurricane or storm, that they have this training

Hochul said she supports Mark Poloncarz’s decision on a mask mandate for Erie County but does not feel its necessary statewide. “I know this is how we’re going to come out of this with a stronger economic recovery not to have shut downs are not necessary, not to have requirements where they’re not needed.”

New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt is hoping to strike that balance of keeping as much of the state open while still protecting the most vulnerable. “Covid is gonna be with us. I don’t think we’re ever, for the rest of my life Covid is gonna be here in some shape or form. The key is, how do we make sure people aren’t dying or being hospitalized on it. If we can do that, then I think that’s probably the best we can hope for.”