Hochul announces winter surge plan to fight rising number of COVID cases

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 2:18 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2021 at 3:17 PM EST
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced a Winter Surge Plan 2.0 to combat the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations stemming from the omicron variant.

“As we hit this new year, it’s an opportunity to reflect and reset,” said Hochul, D-New York.

The governor says the winter surge was a surprise to no one.

She says the state has 95% of adults with one vaccine dose but the number drops for adults who are fully vaccinated.

Hochul says the vaccine rate among children 5-11 needs to go up, too, and she encourages parents to use the weekend to vaccinate their kids before they return to schools Monday.

“The answer lies before us. It is so clear and it’s right there,” Hochul said.

She also announced a five-part Winter Surge Plan 2.0 for the coming weeks of the winter surge, starting with keeping kids in school.

She says more tests are on their way for the Test to Stay program starting Monday in New York school districts. Students looking to return to a SUNY or CUNY school will need a booster shot once eligible to receive one.

“This is how we are going to ensure that these campuses stay open,” Hochul said.

She says that teachers will now be required to be fully vaccinated, as well, and surveillance testing will continue.

Next up is a push for most masking and testing, stating the state’s mask or vaccination mandate will extend two weeks until Feb. 1.

“Being very willing to reassess, hoping the picture is more positive in February but we just don’t have that information right now,” Hochul said.

She encourages all to wear the more effective KN95 masks, double masking offering better protection.

The third step focuses on preventing severe illness and death. Hospitalizations are up; 85 people are hospitalized in the North Country and nearly 8,000 across the state.

She said during her tour of the North Country this week, hospitals said they need help with ambulances and more will come in the new year.

“There is a certain remoteness; these people are far from other hospitals. They have been relying on volunteer EMTs and we said that isn’t sustainable, we’re going to help you out. So we want to deploy people to an area we consider high need, as well,” Hochul said.

Last, she says the state will continue to push vaccinations and boosters, particularly among kids, and work with county government to make sure all are on the same page at every level of the state.

Hochul also said federal ambulance teams and additional National Guard members are headed for New York City, and western New York hospitals are getting more federal help as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations keep rising.

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