August 31, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces New Measures to Combat COVID-19 Delta Variant

Video, Audio, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces New Measures to Combat COVID-19 Delta Variant

Announces Plan for New Statewide Weekly Testing Requirement for Unvaccinated School Staff

Decentralizes Booster Shot Distribution to Local Health Departments, Announces $65 Million Available to Local Health Departments to Support These Efforts

State Exploring Vaccine Mandate for All Staff in All State Regulated Facilities

New Measures Build on Governor's Comprehensive Plan to Help Ensure a Safe, Productive Return to Schools This Fall

Follows Universal Mask Requirement in All Schools Enacted on Governor's First Day in Office and $585 Million School Testing Program Using $585 Million in Federal Funds

Governor Hochul: "I will not be micro-managing, but I'll be giving guidance based on your input. I'll be giving you the cover you need. I'll be there to be the ally, but I will not be imposing state people and locations on all of you without consultation. You tell us where there's gaps, tell us where something needs to be enhanced by the state, and we'll be there without stepping on the local public health agencies."

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new measures to combat the COVID-19 Delta variant and updated New Yorkers on the state's progress combating the virus.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks are available below:

Good morning, everyone. Happy to sleep in my own bed last night. It's great. There's still laundry and dishes, nothing changes. But I am so happy to be among my friends. And I consider you all friends because even before the pandemic, I've had the opportunity to serve this community in so many levels of government, which brought me in contact with all of you.

What we saw during this pandemic was quite extraordinary. The way that this community, Western New York overall, came together, as well as people all across the state, came together in a profound way. That said, we can do this. We're in this together and we can fight back this pandemic. And I know this because I was literally in the trenches with many of you in this room. Daily calls, daily meetings, since March all the way up until just a few months ago. It would be a beautiful summer day and everybody's on a Zoom call in July talking about what we're going to do.

So, I just want to thank everyone who is part of the control room, who is part of the vaccine vaccination hub, our health equity taskforce. The leaders of our hospitals who did an incredible job, I want to recognize. I'm going to shout out a few names, but I'm going to tell you, I don't usually read a lot of names, but I need to here because everybody played a major role.

To Dr. Tripathi your leadership of this institution has been nothing short of phenomenal. It's a point of pride for us as people talk about UB in other parts of the state. I want to thank you for all you've done for the University of Buffalo, Dr. Tripathi.

Also, Dr. Michael Cain. You really gave us that confidence that we needed at a time when there was so much uncertainty and you brought together the team, Dr. Russo and many others, who countless times we gathered in this building and gave briefings to people. So just tell them and their teams, we will never forget what they did to help us navigate some truly turbulent waters.

Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who I have on speed messaging all the time, who has been fighting so hard to make sure that as we battled the pandemic, that we did not forget the people who were in the underserved communities, the people who did not have access to opportunities that others may have. We have healthcare deserts, they exist, they are real. And I want to thank her for putting a spotlight on the needs of people all over the state, but particularly in her district and continue to be a great fighter. Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

I know that Senator Tim Kennedy just sent me a message. He'll join us. If he can. He's at a funeral that he needed to attend this morning, as well as our other partners in state government.

County Executive Poloncarz. Yes, we had many, many, many conversations just trying to figure this out. And I thank you for your steadfastness and your willingness to go before the public on a regular basis and just tell it like it is. That's all people want from their elected officials. Just be honest with them, candid. And I want to thank your Director of Health, Gail Burstein, for being out there, the face of fighting this pandemic.

And a little to the north, Rebecca Wydyshin Niagara County, Chairperson. And DanStapleton, your health commissioner. Yes, we want to make sure that communities like Niagara, which have some urban areas, but also a lot of rural areas, had the resources they needed. So thank you for being out there, fighting for them every single day.

Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel and your Social Services and Health Commissioner Christine Schuyler. We had many conversations, particularly about the impact of the shutdowns on businesses. I mean, this was really important as we figured out what to do about our small businesses in particular. So your input was so critical during this process.

Our Cattaraugus County Health Director, we met many times, Kevin Watkins. Thank you for what you did to help us get through this and not forget the needs of our most rural areas. And there's a lot of poverty, a lot of anxiety in these areas. And I want to thank you. And I know Jack Searles could not attend, but he was part of this.

Allegheny County Chair, Curtis Crandall. Thank you for being such a fabulous representative of your area and making sure we heard your needs as well.

My local mayors, Byron Brown. Thank you for all you did to support our efforts. You were there on the front lines. We needed you. We could count on you and I want to thank you for all you've done, particularly during this pandemic. Mayor Byron Brown.

Mayor Restaino from Niagara Falls. We walked many of your vaccination sites. We were out there touching the people, letting them know how important this was. So thank you.

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist is here. It's so hard with all the masks on. Thank you again for all your leadership Mayor Sundquist

And of course, we have our leadership from the hospitals. They had to go through hell and back, trying to figure out when regulations would come down from the state. What does this mean? How are we going to deal with this? Do we have the resources, how we manage the existing population of people who need healthcare in addition to dealing with the COVID patients? So I want to give a special shout out to someone that has been a friend of mine for decades and that's Tom Quatroche, the leader of ECMC. Tom, you guys were just phenomenal. So thank you for all you did.

And Mark Sullivan at Catholic Health, part of our health equity task force, along with Tom and all of our partners, you really helped lead the charge to bring the most talented people together to help us crunch the data. This was all very data driven. We had to make sure that we had the doctors telling us what to do, not the political side, we focused on the numbers and how to get it done. So thank you for all you did as well.

And Robert Nesselbush who joined, Kaleida leading it during the middle of a pandemic, which is certainly trial by fire. So thank you for all the work that the people at Kaleida have done as well.

And also I think our Darius Pridgen may be here as well, Darius. Oh, there you are. Council President Pridgen, thank you, for your spiritual leadership, as well as your, your governmental leadership as well.

I don’t know if Reverend Blue is here. Reverend? Okay, Reverend Blue the leader of our Health Equity Task Force, making sure that we address the populations that need the most care.

So this is the dream team. These are the people I had a chance to work with, but this story has been replicated all over the state of New York. This was one region people representatives just like these came together everywhere to help us navigate this. One of the takeaways I had from being in the trenches with you is that I understand there is a role for state government and there's a role for local governments, and I'm prepared to transition quickly as we are now fighting this new wave, this Delta variant, which is brutal and people who are not vaccinated will absolutely succumb to this because it is raging. It is far more virulent than COVID was. More contagious. It spreads easier. It's in people's throats and mouths and people are spreading and they don't even know it. So I'm going to have to assemble the dream teams again and get you all activated, but there'll be a different philosophy in how we do that.

I know that all of your local health departments have been preparing for this. This is what you do. I think it was County Executive Wendel said, let us do what we do. This is the super bowl for our health care workers, they know how to manage this. I will not be micro-managing, but I'll be giving guidance based on your input. I'll be giving you the cover you need. I'll be there to be the ally, but I will not be imposing state people and locations on all of you without consultation. You tell us where there's gaps, tell us where something needs to be enhanced by the state, and we'll be there without stepping on the local public health agencies. How does that sound? We game for that?

Let me give a quick assessment of where we are by the numbers. Our vaccination rate, if you look at across the nation, it's good. But we were the hardest hit. We suffered the most. We lost the most economically. When you think about New York City being the epicenter, but it spread to all of our communities, but also it took a huge human toll. And I know there's not a single person who wants to have a rerun of that horror movie we experienced last year. And that's why my administration is 1000% committed to making sure that we stay vigilant. We pull together all the resources and we fight because we can do better on the vaccination rates, no doubt in my mind.

I know there's hesitation. Many people wanted to see that there was final FDA approval. That's now an excuse that has gone. It has been approved. We need to get the vaccine approved for younger children, lower under the age of 12. We're not doing that well getting our 12 to 17 year-olds vaccinated and they are vulnerable to the next virus, which is dangerous.

So our New York State vaccination rate, one dose is 76%, ages 18 over. That's not good enough. 76%, one dose. It only really works when you have two doses, my friends. So if someone comes in the door and thinks, okay, at least I I'm probably okay. They're not okay with this new variant. In Western New York, that's 72%. We need to get more people vaccinated.

Our infection rate. You're all watching the numbers. We watch them like a hawk. We did all last year. We're doing it again. They're starting to creep up. The New York State daily infection rate was 3.9% approaching four, Western New York 5.6%. Don't like those numbers, my friends, don't like those numbers.

I also monitor hospital capacity and to my friends in the hospital world, you know we're okay there right now and you'll let me know if we're not, and you'll see the early warning signs. But from my conversations with you, our bed capacity as of today, yesterday, is still 35% New York State. In Western New York, it's 31%. So we have the capacity, but anything shifts, we know how to have surge We know how to get the resources and we've done it before. So I know you stand ready to trigger what you have to do to make sure that no person who needs healthcare anywhere in the state will be denied that healthcare because we weren't prepared. That's whether they have a COVID-related illness or they have an non-COVID-related illness, we have to ensure that.

So the bed capacity is very, very important. Right now, we are in good shape, but hospitals are filled up with the unvaccinated. Yes, there's some breakthrough cases, but the people who have been vaccinated who do contract the Delta variant, it's basically like having the flu. There are exceptions. But basically, the symptoms are so much more minor than they would have been if you had not been vaccinated. So the hospitals that have patients related to COVID, the Delta variant, are because they're, un-vaccinated, that's something that can be change and must be changed.

Also, we're just around the corner from school, Labor Day for joyful parents triggers the end of summer, the kids are ready to go back, and it's been a brutal year for our children --year and a half --denied that, that normal support system and many kids are leaving home where they're not getting an education. Parents have tried their best, they struggled, but they also have had that go to their own jobs or work from home or be with essential worker and leave their kids to someone else to educate. We can no longer hemorrhage the education of our children. It has to stop, and it has to stop this fall. But every parent -and I'm a parent -their greatest anxiety pertains to the safety of your child. And that's why we're making our schools safe. I announced and wanted to give enough notice to school districts that we will have a mask mandate.

Now, this may seem uncontroversial to many of you. I assure you that it's not, I assure you that I've heard that it's not. It doesn't matter. I'm willing to make tough decisions any day, anywhere, if I think they'll protect the people of the state. So this is not a problem for me. We'll take bold dramatic action to protect individuals in the state, but particularly our children as we start schools, but also, we'll have the masks and I reflect that.

People who say, well, it's an infringement on the child and they can't do it. I remember my four-year-old Katie throwing a meltdown over having to put little sneakers on to go to preschool, OK? She eventually was able to handle something on her feet. Kids are resilient. They can handle a mask on their face. I've seen countless kids with cute little masks on, their favorite characters. They can do it. But one thing I'll tell you, I'm not leaving open-ended mandates. We'll do it now and we'll assess because there'll be parts of our state where the numbers drop, you get the vaccination nods, and we get the vaccine out to children.

That circumstances are going to change in some areas, so I'll be very flexible in allowing localities to talk to me about what's happening on the ground in their communities. so this while it's a universal imposition, but it does not have to be universal lifting at the same time. That's what I want to introduce into this dynamic of we, as we deal with COVID issues.

But also, I want to make sure that our school staff, anybody who enters that building will have to be vaccinated or undergo mandatory testing. Mandatory testing. And we're in the process of getting the legal clearance for that as I speak. I think that's a compromise, but it's also I want everyone vaccinated. I don't have the authority. I don't have the same executive power that was in place last year. But if I did? Sure as I'm standing here, I would mandate it. But given the limitations I have right now, I want to make sure that everyone is. Many, many teachers are. Many school administrators are vaccinated. People are vaccinated, and I don't want to dismiss the people who already went forward and did it. But it's those outliers who could hold back the opportunity for all of us to open up schools in a safe way. And I don't want that to be the case. They will be having to be tested once a week. So we'll be making that a reality very shortly.

Also vaccine mandates for staff and healthcare facilities. We're going to be exploring all of our options to expand this --expanding mandates, not test outs -to all state-regulated facilities and congregate facilities. We have to let people when they walk into our facilities that the people that are taking care of them, their loved one in a setting are safe themselves and will not spread this. And we saw what happened with that last year.

And with respect to booster shots, we all know how to get this done. We have the mechanism in place. We know how to set up mass vaccination sites where needed. We also know it has to be a targeted approach because everyone who got vaccinated eight months ago is vulnerable. As soon as we get the approvals from the federal government to have the ability to do this, we'll want to have the infrastructure in place to make sure that everybody gets a booster. It's a lot of anxiety, a lot of our most vulnerable citizens last December and our nursing homes and senior citizens last January got their shots, and they want to know when they can get that booster.

It's good. We're going to get that to them, but we're going to have to work with all of you to figure out where to do this and whether we're going to have to open sites and I'll make sure you have the funding to do that. You tell me what you need, and we'll make sure that there's funding available. In fact, I'm going to announce today that I'm making $65 million available to the localities to help you set this up. So you can go, when do your communities -you figure it out, you know, your communities better than anybody. Tell me how to take it literally to people door to door, after churches, at senior centers, drive-thru -you know, all the options you've been there before.

Boosters are just as important, because as much as I'm an optimist and we all thought we'd be turning the page on anything related to the pandemic certainly by this time, we have not. The battle rages. We have to fight back. And as sure as I'm standing here, there may be another variant coming again, and we have to be prepared. I don't want to say that, but we have to be prepared. And it's something we're going to have to accept as part of life. Because the last thing I ever want to do is to have to have a shutdown like we saw last year, and there is no need for that. People stay vigilant. They now have the best weapon available to them that we did not have last year. And that is the vaccine and continuing to wear a mask and to make sure that people stay distant, keep washing your hands, do everything we did. Because we will get through this together my friends. We know the recipe. We know how to get this done.

We have to, we have no choice. And I look upon all of you for being part of this, the story, the narrative that someday you'll tell your children and grandchildren. Yes, I was on the front line, the people who are the essential workers, they were out there. And I want to make sure that they still feel the sense of pride that came, that comes with whether you're a veteran World War II and people talk about it, decades later, this will be known as the greatest generation, the people who defeated COVID and I'm very proud of what we've done.

So we're getting kids back to school. We're working with local health departments, getting our vaccinations out, making sure that this money available, make sure I didn't forget something. There might be some other great announcement, but I like the wing a little more than I should. I know my staff is like, why aren't you stick to the script? I'm going to remain unscripted, Hochul, unscripted -just get used to it.

But I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. And I know we can do this again. We need to do this. Let's stay strong. Let's stay together and we'll look back at this day and I'll continue to celebrate with all of you in person, because this is my home. I care about this area deeply, but I know what we do here can also be a model for the rest of the state. The rest of the state needs to follow the example that we can lead right here in Western New York. So thank you everyone. Thank you for coming out today. And I truly appreciate every one of you.

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