BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-NY, said she is taking cues from what she heard from local leaders as she traveled the state over the last year and a half as lieutenant governor.
She says she plans to empower county health departments to take the lead on things like administering testing and COVID-19 booster shots with the state providing financial assistance as needed.
"I saw firsthand the frustration that they had when they said we have health care professionals who are trained for this. We have done this before. We've done Zika. We've done Ebola. We know how to do measles shots. We've done flu shots. They know what to do. This is just one example of how my administration is going to govern. I'm going to empower the people who are supposed to be doing this. It's not about the ego of the state or the state government or the state governor. It's about empowering local governments to do what they do best,” she said.
With that in mind, Hochul announced in Buffalo the state will allocate $65 million for counties to administer booster shots in the coming months. She suggested there will be fewer mandates from her administration than the previous one because the pandemic is no longer uncharted territory and a vaccine is available.
"Different dynamic this year and I know that a lot of local health agencies last year, I heard it all the time, said, ‘we know how to do this,’” she said. “I'm not talking about them making policy. I'm talking about them executing.”
However, Hochul said there will be mandates when needed. She planned to soon issue school guidance including a requirement for everyone in buildings to wear masks and for teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated or be tested weekly.
The governor said she has been speaking with administrators, parents and teachers about any collective bargaining details that need to be worked out.
"I'm prepared to have those conversations about what it's going to take," she said. "If more time off is needed for people to do this, makes sense to me. They should get the time off, but this is all subject to immediate negotiations and we're having those conversations right now."
Hochul also said she plans on a similar vaccine mandate at state-run and state-licensed facilities but because emergency executive powers are no longer in place, a review committee will first need to approve it.
"It's more complicated than we had realized," she said. "I thought I could just come in and do this but we're making it happen right now. We literally are. Those steps are being taken."