All state health-care workers, who have been mandated to get the coronavirus vaccine, must now get booster shots, Governor Hochul announced at a Jan. 7 briefing.
The directive came amid a continuing surge in the Omicron variant that has proven to be less lethal among those who are vaccinated but can cause breakthrough infections for those who have been inoculated.
She said she was optimistic that the affected workers would comply.
'They Did It Once...'
"First of all, 92 percent of all [health-care] workers got the vaccination, which is quite extraordinary—one of the highest rates in the country," she said. "I think they will just view this as 'I did it once, I can do it again.' We don't think it's going to be that level of challenge it was the first go-round, when this was a new idea."
A day earlier, 155 people statewide died from the virus, a substantial jump from single-digit daily totals several months ago. That same day, 11,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized.
Ms. Hochul added that the surge was sidelining so many health-care workers it was placing "an enormous stress on our health system." In recent weeks, dozens of New York hospitals have put elective procedures on hold.
The booster requirement requires a sign off from the Public Health and Health Planning Council. There will be the granting of medical exemptions when warranted.
The Governor also announced regulations that will require that all visitors to state nursing homes wear a snug- fitting surgical mask and provide nursing home staff documentation of a negative COVID test 24 hours before their visit.
Further Along Than Nation
"The nationwide average for people in nursing homes who were vaccinated and boosted, that average is about 60 percent," she said. "I made this a priority at the end of November: I said that we have to get these people vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. So now we have 77 percent of nursing-home individuals and patients who are vaccinated and boosted as well. That number can still go higher, and it needs to go higher."
There has been a sharp increase in pediatric virus cases requiring hospitalization, along with an uptick in nursing-home cases, but Ms. Hochul said the state might be reaching a plateau for new infections.
State health officials pointed out that the test-positivity rate had dropped throughout the work-week starting Jan. 3, indicating the number of new cases was slowing in New York. While they cautioned that it was too soon to say the Omicron surge had peaked, they said such a trajectory would match that reported by South Africa health officials, where that strain originated.
Nassau Exec's Defiance
Asked about new Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's executive order a day earlier giving local school districts and the public the option to not follow her indoor masking guidelines, Ms. Hochul responded, "I have the law of the State of New York behind me and I will always exercise my authority and obligation to protect the health of the people of this state. I feel very confident our requirements will stand. The [state] School Board Association stands with us. Teachers stand with us. Parents stand with us. And those who chose to defy [requirements] will understand that there are consequences."
She cited possible fines and suspension of state education funding for non-compliant school districts.
Mr. Blakeman issued a separate order waiving the mask require for the county's public employees.