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Hochul signs legislation to improve state response to COVID-19 pandemic


Thu, Dec 23rd 2021 01:10 pm

Legislation makes falsification of COVID-19 vaccination records a crime; gives schools improved access to statewide immunization database; directs commissioner of health to conduct study of delivery of ambulatory care and other medical care in response to COVID-19 pandemic; directs Department of Financial Services to conduct study on certain impacts of pandemic

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a package of legislation designed to improve New York's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This legislative package will “take a major step forward in the state's efforts to increase vaccination rates and study the effects this pandemic has had on our economy and health care system,” her office stated.

Hochul said, "We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic, so we don't make the same mistakes twice. These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records, and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road."

Falsification of COVID-19 Vaccination Records

Legislation (S.4516-C/A.7536-B adds clarification that a COVID-19 vaccination card shall be considered a written instrument for purposes of the forgery statute, which makes the falsification of COVID-19 vaccination cards a class A misdemeanor. It also creates a new E felony of computer tampering in the third degree for intentional entering, alteration or destruction of "computer material" regarding COVID-19 vaccine provisions.

Hochul’s office said, “Individuals who misrepresent their vaccination history not only jeopardize their own health, but the health of all those they come into contact with. This legislation ensures that, as New York opens up and many businesses choose to rely on checking vaccination status, the falsification of vaccination records will not be tolerated.

Improving Schools Access to Statewide Immunization Database

Legislation (S.4962/A.5062) gives schools improved access to the statewide immunization database, requiring the Department of Health to allow every school access to the immunization records for their students. Currently, schools that are not school based health-centers have read-only access to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS). This leads to schools having to individually search each of their student's immunization records and manually downloading them into their database.

Hochul’s office said, “With the recent surge in students 5 to 18 getting vaccinated, allowing schools the ability to download their full roster of vaccination data will save hours for staff, and improve the infection response from schools.”

DOH to Conduct Medical Care Study Related to the Pandemic

Legislation (S.6375/A.5713) directs the commissioner of health to conduct a study of the delivery of ambulatory care and other medical care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The commissioner will then make recommendations to improve the delivery, quality, accessibility and cost of the full range of ambulatory health care services required by the community. The findings and recommendations will then be published on DOH's website.

Hochul’s team said, “This bill will help to improve medical access for New Yorkers, especially those in public hospital deserts that rely on ambulatory care more heavily. A similar study was conducted in 2017, so this is an opportunity to see how the pandemic has affected our medical care system.”

DFS to Conduct Study on COVID-19 Impact

Legislation (S.6070-A/A.7324-A) directs the Department of Financial Services to conduct a study on impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on underbanked and underserved areas, small businesses and minority- and women-owned business enterprises getting loans. Minority and low-income areas were hit especially hard by the pandemic, so this legislation will provide state government officials information on how banking was effected in these communities, and what solutions there are to create more accessible banking.

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