Gov. Hochul announces #VaxtoSchool campaign, $65M to local health departments for booster shot distribution

NY News

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on Main Street, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News via AP)

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new school-based COVID vaccine, the latest pandemic metrics in New York, gave an update on booster shots, and more during a coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon in New York City.

The governor said Tuesday that New York was going in the “wrong direction” when it came to certain COVID-19 metrics, like statewide hospitalizations.

“By region, the numbers are creeping back up again,” Gov. Hochul said. “Not unlike what we went through last year, and we’re going to continue raising the question: What is different by region? Why are some areas doing better than others, and what can be done to take us to a better place for all?”

According to the governor, the North Country region currently has the highest average positivity rate, while the Southern Tier has the lowest. The Finger Lakes region is currently in the middle of the pack while the overall statewide rate stands at 3.34%, as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Hospitalizations is what we look at closer than anything,” Gov. Hochul said.

New York state saw an increase of more than 100 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide in Tuesday’s update compared to the week prior. While hospitals throughout New York still have capacity to handle the current increase, the governor says that can change as delta surges and more variants emerge.

“We know how to handle this,” Gov. Hochul said. “If you’ll watch the numbers here, daily hospitalizations are much lower than they have been, but this could change overnight, this could change quickly.”

Combining the dual priorities of increasing vaccination and reopening schools safely, the governor announced the new #VaxToSchool campaign. It’s a state-funding digital marketing campaign designed to increase vaccinations in and around school communities statewide.

“We’re going to make it easy on you,” Gov. Hochul said. “A digital channel, available on Instagram, and it’s all about prioritizing the health of our teachers, our administrators, and our children, so we get that sense of security that parents will need when they say goodbye to their child. And we’re going to be announcing pop-up sites very shortly.”

In addition to focusing on schools, the governor said a priority of her administration going forward includes workplace safety measures in regards to public health and infectious diseases.

“One way we’re able to increase confidence that workplaces around New York state are going to be safe is the New York Hero Act, and I want to make sure that this is explained, that people understand how significant this is,” Gov. Hochul said. “This was signed last spring, last May, but it never had teeth, never had enforcement. In wasn’t operational, but now what it does is mandate that all workplaces have enforceable protocols that we mandate health and safety protections, including health screenings, masks, physical distancing, and personal protective equipment.”

Regarding booster shots, which could begin as soon as this month, the governor said the state was awaiting federal approval, but added that there is plenty of supply for eligible New Yorkers to receive the booster when they want it.

The governor said FDA approval for the Pfizer booster is expected to happen by September 20, with Moderna approval to follow.

She said the state is allocating $65 million to local health departments to support distribution efforts. She added that the state would be working with health providers and long-term care facilities to ensure “efficient, and equitable vaccine access.”

Gov. Hochul also said in an additional effort to ensure vaccine equity, the state would engage with local health departments to identify pop-up sites in vulnerable communities.

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