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Gov. Hochul: 'I will not be micromanaging;' announces new COVID-19 mandates during Buffalo stop

Governor Kathy Hochul is wearing a red dress with elbow-length sleeves, a watch, and a dark blue mask with a New York State logo on it. She is waiving as she walks across a stage, with a University at Buffalo blue backdrop and American flag in the background. Also, behind her, off the stage to the left, two masked men in suits are approaching the stage, holding papers and a folder.
Mike Groll
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers a COVID-19 briefing at the University at Buffalo Jacobs Medical School in Buffalo Aug. 31, 2021.

Gov. Kathy Hochul made clear on Tuesday that she intends to run the state's COVID-19 response differently than it has been, as she spoke in front of Western New York health, government, and religious leaders at the Jacobs School of Medicine in Downtown Buffalo.

"I will not be micromanaging, but I'll be giving guidance based on your input. I'll be giving you the cover you need. I'll be there to be the ally," Hochul said. "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."

Gov. Hochul & COVID-19 Mandates
Kathy Hochul was in Buffalo Tuesday to let local leaders know she wants to work with them and is planning mandates aimed at taming the delta variant of the coronavirus. But who will these mandates impact? WBFO’s Emyle Watkins has the latest.

There is already "cover" underway — different state mandates Hochul is implementing to help the state deal with Delta. New York currently has a 3.96% positive rate with 58.5% of New Yorkers fully vaccinated, according to the state.

“The hospitals that have patients related to COVID, the Delta variant, are because they're unvaccinated. That's something that can be changed and must be changed," Hochul said, also acknowledging that there are some breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals, but fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to get severely ill.

Hochul shared several measures her administration is taking that will cover the entire state. She shared that she is seeking legal clearance to mandate that public and charter school teachers either get vaccinated for COVID-19 or get tested weekly.

"I don't want to dismiss the people who already went forward and did it, but 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," Hochul said.

She will also be continuing with a mask mandate in schools, however, Hochul said they will reevaluate the mandate as COVID rates change and vaccinations increase.

“I'm not leaving open-ended mandates. We'll do it now and we'll assess, because there'll be parts of our state where the numbers drop. You get the vaccinations up and we get the vaccine out to children, circumstances are going to change in some areas. So I'll be very flexible in allowing localities to talk to me about what's happening on the ground in their communities," Hochul said.

New Yorkers may see additional vaccine mandates outside of schools, as well. Hochul also shared that she is exploring mandating vaccines for employees of all state-regulated facilities and congregant living facilities, not just healthcare facilities as she announced last week.

Hochul will also be sending $65 million across the state to help local health departments deliver the COVID-19 booster shot, which is expected to roll out nationwide in late September.

"You know your communities better than anybody. Tell me how to take it literally to people, door to door, after churches, at senior centers, drive through, you know all the options, you've been there before," Hochul said, speaking to local leaders and elected officials. "Boosters are just as important, because as much as I'm an optimist and we all thought we'd be turning the page on anything related to the pandemic, certainly by this time, we have not. The battle rages, we have to fight back. And as sure as I'm standing here, there may be another variant coming again and we have to be prepared. I don't want to say that, but we have to be prepared."

Currently, only people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, based on CDC guidance, can get a third COVID-19 shot, which is not considered a booster. This is to help people who may not have gotten a full response to the first two doses.

Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.
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