ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced expanded mask requirements beginning Wednesday.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Hochul announced expanded efforts to thwart the COVID-19 virus in advance of the anticipated spike in cases throughout fall and winter months.
“With the delta variant on the rise, requiring masks at state-regulated child care, mental health and substance abuse facilities is a key part of our broader strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, reopening our economy safely and protecting vulnerable members of our population,” Hochul said. “For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection. This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools.”
The new mask requirements are an addition to the areas of the state which require masks, such as schools and public transportation. Masks are also required at state-run child care and day care facilities for everyone 2 and older including all staff and visitors as well as in state-regulated residential and congregate day programs such as inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities and substance abuse services.
“If you’re watching the national news, the scariest announcement coming out every single morning is the number of children now contracting COVID,” Hochul said. “We don’t have a vaccine available for five-to-11-year-olds. I am very anxious to get this approved, and as soon as it is we will be working with parents and pediatricians and schools to make sure that the children are vaccinated, but we’re not hearing that this will occur for a number of months yet.”
The mask requirement applies to state Office of Children and Family Services-licensed and -registered child care centers, home-based group family and family child care programs, after-school child care programs and enrolled legally exempt group programs during operational hours. Implementing the mask regulation in child care programs will provide consistency between child care program children and school children, many of whom often share the same buildings.
“We all want this to be over,” Hochul said. “Everybody is tired of it, it’s been a long, long, long haul. And the great news is we have the power to end this. If every single person in New York state who is eligible, and that is everybody over the age of 12, would simply get their vaccine and then prepare to get their booster, we could get through this.”
In addition to the stricter mask requirements, Hochul also announced Wednesday that emergency medical technicians will be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines. People are going to be able to receive their booster shots in the near future, Hochul said.
Increased demand for shots similar over the demand from last year when people first became eligible is expected. “We’re going to have a real spike, we’re going to have a lot of people all of a sudden who are now eligible, and I don’t want it to be a problem,” Hochul said. “And I wanted to address it before it becomes a problem. So we basically needed more people who are trained and qualified to administer vaccines. So what we’re doing today is directing the Department of Health to allow basic EMTs to administer vaccines.”
The addition of EMTs being allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccines adds more than 2,000 fully trained vaccinators to the state, Hochul said.
“We have 50,000 now eligible for training,” Hochul said. “Training is simple. It is an online and in-person training, it only takes a few hours and they have to demonstrate their competency at this as well. So anybody who’s giving you a jab knows what they’re doing. It’s going to help alleviate a staffing situation that we’re anticipating will be the case.”