ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday she’s seeking “the legal clearance” to mandate COVID-19 testing on unvaccinated public and charter school workers across the state — but shots in arms are her long-term goal.
“I want everyone vaccinated,” she said.
“I don’t have the same executive power that was in place last year. But if I did, sure as I’m standing here, I would mandate it,” she said during an appearance at the University of Buffalo, in her hometown.
“It’s those outliers who could hold back the opportunity for all of us to open up schools in a safe way. And I don’t want that to be the case. They will be having to be tested once a week. So we’ll be making that a reality very shortly.”
The state Health Department issued an emergency regulation Friday requiring masks for all staff and students in public and private schools regardless of vaccination status.
Hochul’s office said she’s negotiating an edict that would put in place mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing schedules for school staffers.
The governor also said she wants to implement a mandatory vaccination requirement for all staffers working in state-regulated facilities and congregate settings. Workers in hospitals and long term care facilities are already required to get the shot.
Both measures could soon be approved by the state Health Department’s planning body — the Public Health and Health Planning Council — which is slated to meet this Thursday.
Hochul also took a series of thinly veiled shots at her overbearing and disgraced predecessor, ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying, “I will not be micromanaging” local officials as they battle the pandemic.
The former governor was accused of ignoring local governments’ vaccination plans, which critics say led to slow-rolling shots into arms last winter.
“There is a role for state government, a role for local government,” she said, in an apparent nod to the former administration’s lack of timely communication with local elected officials, who have said they would often find out about public health policy changes via new executive orders watching one of the daily COVID-19 briefings in real time.
“I’m gonna have to assemble the dream teams again and get you all activated, but there’ll be a different philosophy,” she said.
“I’ll be there to be the ally, but I will not be imposing state, people and locations on all of you without consultation, you tell us where there’s gaps, tell us where something needs to be enhanced by the state, and we’ll be there without stepping on the local public health agencies, how does that sound?”
The new governor also said an additional $65 million will be allocated to local governments to assist with issuing COVID-19 booster shots, which US health officials said could be available as soon as September.
Nearly 70 percent of adult New Yorkers ages 18 and up have been fully vaccinated and nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers in the same category have received at least one vaccine dose according to state data.
A little over 58 percent of all individuals eligible for the shot in the state have been fully vaccinated, and almost 70 percent in that group have received at least one vaccine dose.