Hochul New Year's Eve

Gov. Kathy Hochul during her Dec. 31 address.

ALBANY-Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined Friday the state's five-point plan for the expected winter surge of COVID-19 cases.

The updated 2.0 plan was developed because the virus is changing so quickly, Hochul said. The number of New Yorkers with COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the past month.

​"We have to be very smart; we have to use what we've learned over the last two years of dealing with this pandemic," Hochul said. "We need to be focused, specific and targeted. We've been doing the right things, but 2.0 is simply improvements upon what we've been doing, and again, to sound the alarm that the numbers are continuing to increase. They don't have to. We can control this. It's within our reach."

The Winter Surge Plan 2.0 includes five ​components: keeping students in schools; continue wearing masks and performing testing; prevent severe illness and death; continue to increase vaccines and boosters for adults and children; and continue working in collaboration with local leaders.

​The steep increase in cases this winter following the holidays has been expected for months, Hochul said. The growing numbers of COVID-19 cases is seen not only in New York, but nationally and globally. In addition, New York state is breaking record numbers of new cases each day, she added.

COVID-19 testing kits are coming to schools to help keep students in the classroom, Hochul said.

"We want to make sure we have enough supply so when one of their classmates tests positive," Hochul said. "Everyone can take a test kit home in their backpack and come back the next day if they have a negative test, and get tested again in a couple of days. This is how we believe, listening to the experts, is the safest way to keep children in schools."

State Universities of New York and City Universities of New York students will be required to get a booster shot when they become eligible, and faculty will be required to be vaccinated, Hochul said. Colleges will continue to be required to do random screening.

Hochul extended the states masking and vaccine protocol for state business for an additional two weeks through Feb. 1. The requirement, which mandates all businesses require everyone who enters is masked, regardless of their vaccination status, originally set to expire January 15.

The state has distributed over 5 million KN-95 masks to counties and more are coming, Hochul said. She suggested people who want to wear cloth masks should instead wear the more effective masks, such as the KN-95, and wear a cloth face mask over it for safety.

"Keep your fun mask, but make sure you wear it over one that gives you more protection," Hochul said.

The state has requested the federal government provide more resources to the state, including more medicine, and requested the federal government give the state the right to protect nursing home occupants Hochul said.

"Here's the problem," Hochul said. "We don't have the ability to require visitors to nursing homes be vaccinated. We've always known this is a vulnerable population. We know many people are vaccinated in nursing homes and we made sure that booster shots were available to nursing homes way back in November."

The state has asked the federal government to revise its regulations that do not allow the state to put regulations on visitors at nursing homes, Hochul said.

"Visit your loved one," Hochul said. "But also, don't be the reason that loved one does not survive because you brought the virus into the nursing home to them and their neighbors. Please be smart about this. While we can't require it at this time, we've asked the federal government to give us the authority to. In the meantime, do it because its the right thing to do."

The vaccine and booster shots are the best ways to be protected from severe illness, acting state Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. The FDA has given emergency approval to two oral anti-viral drugs, she said last week..

"This is a huge advance," Bassett said. "And it will give us a way of keeping people out of hospitals who are at risk for hospitalization and are infected. But, we need much larger amounts than we have received. The supply is dispensed by the federal government and we've gotten our allocation of 3,180 doses, which are being distributed around the state. "

The medication is being distributed based on the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as county population, Bassett said.

The state Department of Health anticipates the supply will increase, Bassett said.

The supply has been low because of production challenges, she added, and there is not much in the national supply of the medications.

The state is microtargeting vaccines and boosters to increase the number of inoculated adults and children, Hochul said. Raising the number of vaccinated New Yorkers is especially important for children as vaccination rates for children are trending upward, but they continue to be low, overall, she added.

Hochul encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated.

"This is the final message--2022 is the year we beat this pandemic," Hochul said.

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