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Click here to view 5-point plan; indoor masking to continue until Feb. 1
√ As New York battles winter surge, governor unveils targeted plan ‘to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, save lives & support critical industries’
√ Builds on ongoing efforts including distribution of millions of test kits, actions to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages, and ongoing vaccination & booster outreach
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced “Winter Surge Plan 2.0,” a new targeted effort to bolster New York's fight against the winter surge. Her plan focuses on five core areas: keeping students in school, doubling down on masks and testing, preventing severe illness and death, increasing access to vaccines and boosters, and working together with local leaders. Hours before the New Year began, Hochul also urged New Yorkers to celebrate New Year's Eve in a safe, responsible way.
"As we head into the holiday weekend, New York state is mobilizing every resource at our disposal to fight the winter surge and keep New Yorkers safe," Hochul said. "We can get through this surge through targeted actions, partnerships with local leaders, and by taking common sense steps to keep us all safe: Get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask indoors."
Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "We have every tool to keep our families and communities safe. We must ensure we use them all. Gov. Hochul's targeted plan to expand vaccination and booster access, mask and test, and increase measures to protect our health care workers is the comprehensive strategy needed to combat the fast-spreading omicron variant. Leveraging these layered mitigation tactics is how we will protect the health of New Yorkers and effectively manage the winter surge."
1. Keep schools open: After two years of remote learning and school closures, Hochul is focused on keeping students in school in the upcoming year. The first plank of her five-part plan includes:
√ Providing tests to students and school districts: 5.56 million tests arrived for schools this week and between 6 and 7 million more are expected to arrive in the coming days. New York has mobilized 40 trucks and 86 state personnel to distribute tests. Overall, New York has secured 37 million tests for distribution.
√ Working with counties to implement “test-to-stay”: Hochul’s team said, “ ‘Test-to-stay’ policies have proven successful at keeping our kids safe and schools open.” If a student tests positive, classmates can take a test kit back home with them and return to the classroom upon receiving a negative result instead of mandatory quarantining.
√ Keeping college students and faculty safe: SUNY and CUNY will be introducing a new requirement for all students to get boosters, campuses will require mandatory mask wearing in public indoor spaces, and will require all faculty to be vaccinated. Students will also be required to submit negative tests upon returning to campus.
2. Keep masking, keep testing: Hochul’s team said the governor “recognizes that, to stop the spread of the virus, New Yorkers must continue wearing masks and getting tested for COVID.” Hochul will:
√ Extend the mask-or-vax requirement: The Department of Health will extend the mask-or-vaccine requirement for an additional two weeks, protecting workers and allowing businesses to remain open. The requirement wherein people have to wear a mask indoors (unless the site is limited to vaccinated patrons) will continue until Feb. 1.
√ Make masks more widely available: New York has distributed 5 million KN-95 masks, and more will be distributed through state legislators. Hundreds of thousands of masks will also be distributed for nursing home visitors.
√ Launch new testing sites: Hochul will open six new testing sites on Jan. 4, totaling 19 state-run sites statewide. Additionally, Hochul announced the launch of two new testing sites at MTA stations, in addition to previously announced MTA pop-ups.
3. Preventing severe illness and death: With case counts rising, Hochul is making it a priority to prevent severe illness and death by supporting the hospital system. The “Winter Surge Plan 2.0” will:
√ Distribute antiviral treatments: New York is working with the Biden administration to secure doses of the antiviral drug Pavloxid and make this treatment more widely available.
√ Boost hospital capacity: Hochul will continue enforcing the Nov. 26 executive order to boost hospital capacity. Since it took effect, the number of hospitals with limited capacity needing to pause nonessential surgeries has declined from 32 to 21.
√ Launch National Guard EMT training: To ramp up long-term health care workforce capacity needs, the Department of Health and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be launching two pilot EMT training classes on Jan. 5. This will cover two classes of 40 service members (80 service members in total) who will be able to be deployed by February.
√ Secure additional help from federal partners: Hochul’s team said, “In the coming days, we will receive federal Department of Defense medical response and disaster medical assistance teams. This will include a 35-member DMAT to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 23-member DoD Medical Response Team to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, and 50 new ambulance teams deployed to NYC.”
√ Protect nursing home residents and workers: the Hochul administration is in contact with all 606 nursing homes in New York, and will provide them with additional PPE to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Additionally, the administration is coordinating with hospitals and will be deploying durable medical equipment in continued support of the care for all New Yorkers.
4. Expand access to vaccines and boosters: Hochul’s team said, “Vaccines continue to be the best defense against COVID hospitalization and death. While 95% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one shot, there's more to do to increase vaccination and booster rates, especially among children.” Her point calls for:
√ Provide boosters to nursing homes: New York will begin requiring each nursing home to demonstrate their plan to increase vaccination and booster rates among their residents.
√ Increase pediatric vaccination: The most unvaccinated eligible cohort is New Yorkers aged 5-11. New York will increase our focus on pediatric vaccination.
√ Get booster shots to teenagers: Hochul’s team said, “We anticipate approval of Pfizer's booster shot for children aged 12-15 and will immediately begin outreach to that population once ready.”
5. Work with local partners: Hochul has emphasized the fight against the coronavirus “must take a collaborative approach. Fighting the winter surge requires close collaboration with local partners.” So, she intends to:
√ Let local leaders lead: Her team said, “From New York City to Erie County, local leaders are making smart choices. We will continue this surgical, targeted approach.”
√ Provide resources to local partners: Hochul will continue to lead a whole-of-government approach to fight COVID-19, “making sure county emergency managers and local school boards have the tests and masks they need.”
New York State Testing Sites
Hochul also announced six new state testing sites to address the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. These sites are aimed providing additional testing options in areas of high need throughout the Capital, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Western New York regions.
"We want to start the New Year strong and use every tool at our disposal," she said. "By mobilizing testing sites throughout the state, we will make sure testing is more accessible and convenient for New Yorkers. We will continue to expand testing availability to every corner of the state, evaluating where more capacity and additional sites are needed soon. I encourage every New Yorker to take advantage of a site near them."
Sites are currently being mobilized with all locations slated to open on Jan. 4. Upon launch, all sites will offer rapid antigen tests. New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to make appointments here. Test results are sent following the appointment through email or text message. Walk-in appointments will also be available.
In Western New York, the site will be Northwest Buffalo Community Center, 155 Lawn Ave., Buffalo. On Jan. 4, operating hours will be noon to 6 p.m. After that, it will be open during regular hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Additional sites throughout the state are being planned as well, and information regarding these sites will be announced soon. New Yorkers can find sites near them here.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "I want to thank the governor for her commitment to expand COVID testing sites, including the one at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon. Adding additional sites here in Westchester and throughout New York is a top priority for the Senate. I know the last few weeks have felt like a step back on all of the progress we have made. We hoped to be completely opened up for the holidays, but COVID had other plans for us. But this is not a repeat of March 2020. We now have a strong arsenal of tools to fight this virus and limit the human and economic toll of the pandemic. We need everyone to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear masks and get tested as we push through this latest phase of the crisis."
WELL Health CEO & Medical Director Dr. Abdul-Ahad Hayee, M.D., one of the founding partners, said, "It is our mission to help as many people as possible find easy, accessible COVID-19 testing sites and deliver quick, accurate results. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are proud to work with New York state and the Department of Health on this partnership to bring six new test sites to New York communities in different locations throughout the state, as we've successfully done with so many other states already. We thank Gov. Hochul for her leadership in ensuring New Yorkers' have even more access to testing – helping communities stay safe and stay open."