Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday she has ordered at least 3.5 million COVID testing kits to hand out to state schools for children. At the news conference, the governor also highlighted the need for getting children vaccinated against COVID-19. Rising numbers of COVID cases and a recent increase in pediatric hospitalizations are alarming state health officials.

Children age 5-11 have been approved to receive the vaccine since Nov. 3, Hochul said. Two weeks ago the 5-11 age group was about 11% vaccinated, and to date it is at about 16.4%. There is no reason for so few children to be vaccinated. The supply is there. The capacity to vaccinate as many eligible children as possible is there.

The number of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has continued to increase this month.

Many people continue to think that children don’t become infected with COVID. This is a dangerous myth. Children become infected and some will be hospitalized. Some may die. The majority of childhood cases are not being transmitted in schools. Yet the vaccination coverage remains too low.

There is strong public interest in keeping children in school and keeping schools open. We all remember the social and academic isolation of the 2020-21 school year. We all know teachers in many cases were swimming upstream to hold classroom instruction while students learned at home.

We’ve seen the impact the last school year had on children, teachers and parents — and it is not good.

The experiment of having children learn from home was, in large, part a failure. This is not to say it was a failure by teachers, parents and children who underwent extraordinary hardship. We had few weapons against COVID then. The result: Learning did not continue the way it should and the emotional toll was enormous.

For this big step forward in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor would score a victory for the health and safety of our children and the adults around them.

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