ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This week on Empire State Weekly, as coronavirus cases continue climbing, the colder weather is moving in, and more people are spending more time indoors. We take a look at how the state plans to combat this latest surge of infections. We caught up with New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, as she recovers from a breakthrough case of COVID, she’s sharing her message to vaccinated and unvaccinated New Yorkers as we head into the new year.

Dr. Bassett says she’s fully vaccinated and has received her booster shot as well, but is still experiencing mild COVID symptoms. “It’s more important to get your COVID vaccine and booster shot now more than ever,” Dr. Bassett warns as State officials continue urging New Yorkers to take the necessary precautionary measures to keep themselves and their loved ones protected against COVID as the anticipated winter surge is upon us.

This comes as the State is allocating more resources for at-home COVID testing. Governor Kathy Hochul is ramping up efforts to make these tests available to all New Yorkers, especially our school children. According to Dr. Bassett, the State has already sent a million test kits to be distributed to local health departments, with another 5 million to arrive before the year’s end. Both Governor Hochul and Dr. Bassett have said it will be vital to test children before they head back to school.

“We want to keep children in schools it’s really important to their education, to their mental health, their socialization,” says Dr. Bassett. “The Centers for Disease Control has agreed that we can use these for a program called ‘test to stay’, that is a strategy that would be supported by this at home testing.”

With many gathering in-person, and traveling out of town for the holiday season, we hear from officials organizing the ball drop in Times Square, who have spent the month cautiously planning for another safe New Year’s Eve celebration.

According to Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, they have strategized with the NYPD to ensure revelers will be able to safely enjoy the outdoor celebration, without having to worry about over-crowding or security issues. Those planning to attend New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square will have to provide proof of vaccination before entering the area.

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