After a long 12 months of partisan bickering over the range and depth of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extraordinary emergency powers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it must have been galling for some lawmakers when Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is seeking to broaden her executive decision-making and spending powers to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all teachers and statewide school personnel.
Cut from the same cloth, we can hear them grumble.
But in this case, the vaccine mandate would require legislation without expanded authority, which Cuomo enjoyed for nearly 15 months since the March 2020 start of the coronavirus pandemic. The additional executive powers are necessary, Hochul said Wednesday in an interview with Willie Geist on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“What I don’t have is the ability to mandate vaccines because the Legislature did not confer on the governor at this time the executive powers necessary,” Hochul said. “Gov. Cuomo had that last year but those are not in place now. ... I am working already, with everyone who’s involved, to see if we can get to the same outcome.”
Acknowledging her decision could be controversial, Hochul said Tuesday the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for all teachers, faculty and staff in New York school districts with a weekly test-out option, adding more statewide vaccine mandates are imminent.
With the start of the fall 2021 semester around the corner and as administrators work to get on the same page with state health guidance, parents want to feel safe about their schools. Stress from sending your child to school in the era of COVID is high and the guidance could change at a moment’s notice, adding to the worries.
But if parents know wearing masks and having vaccinated teachers and staff in their schools will create a safety net for their children, some of that stress will be eased. There will be much at stake in the coming weeks. Hochul can’t allow tensions over executive powers to intrude on her watch.