Gov. Hochul on religious exemption for health care vaccine mandate: ‘We will appeal this’

New York News

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a coronavirus briefing Wednesday morning to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.

New numbers

Each region’s seven-day average positivity rate, according to the governor Wednesday, is as follows:

  • Capital Region — 3.69%
  • Central New York — 5.29%
  • Finger Lakes — 4.75%
  • Long Island — 2.77%
  • Mid-Hudson — 2.55%
  • Mohawk Valley — 5.13%
  • New York City — 1.34%
  • North Country — 5.76%
  • Southern Tier — 4.05%
  • Western New York — 4.62%
  • Statewide — 2.53%

“We have identified some high areas and we are in constant communication with local health departments,” Gov. Hochul said. We are there to help. I want to empower local government and most of the state is doing OK. The real picture is how many people are, which can be seen at the local hospitalization numbers.”

On that, the governor said statewide the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations have flattened in recent weeks, but she said she’s “not spiking the football anytime soon,” and recalled the holiday season spike New York saw last year.

There are currently more than 2,000 people statewide hospitalized with the virus, and the governor announced 32 new COVID-19 deaths in New York.

Gov. Hochul said breakthrough cases remain rare in New York, accounting for 0.9% of all statewide cases over the past week, and just 0.06% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Vaccination

The governor said more than 85% of new Yorkers have now gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

“It’s a huge milestone, but let’s keep it going, let’s hit 90%,” Gov. Hochul said.

The statewide vaccination progress, according to the governor Wednesday, is as follows:

  • 26,441,882 total doses administered
  • 40,233 total doses administered over past 24 hours
  • 85.1% of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose
  • 76.3% of New Yorkers 18 and older fully vaccinated
  • 67.4% of New Yorkers 12-17 years old with at least one dose
  • 58.1% of New Yorkers 12-17 years old fully vaccinated

“We have to bump up the numbers in young people and get those who need their second shots to get them,” Gov. Hochul said.

The governor also announced a new statewide data hub that will give a “fuller picture” of New York’s vaccination progress.

“We are launching a new data site to find everything you need in one place,” Gov. Hochul said. “We want to improve transparency.

The governor added that the state is preparing for vaccine approval for children.

“We have to make sure pediatricians are ready to give the vaccine to children — it will be a game changer,” Gov. Hochul said. “This is a source of anxiety for many. As parents you’re taught to protect your kids, but we will make sure it’s accessible and safe for everyone. They are going to be putting them together in small batches. It’s inevitable, and we don’t know when yet, but we will have plenty of supply here in New York.”

The governor said she wasn’t considering a vaccine requirement for school children once the vaccine is approved for kids.

“My default position is to trust parents to make the right decision, and that’s get vaccinated,” Gov. Hochul said. “To make sure their own kids are vaccinated against everything they can be. I want to have pediatricians and parents have this be part of their regular check-ups.”

Vaccine mandate for health care workers

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate for health care workers can remain in effect, adding that the state has the ability to appeal the decision — a motion that the governor indicated she would pursue. In a Tuesday statement, Gov. Hochul said:

“I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders to Canada, something I have called for since the beginning of the closure. Canada is not only our trade partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and our friends. From Western New York to the North Country, I look forward to welcoming our Canadian neighbors back to New York as we continue to rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”

During Wednesday’s briefing, the governor said she was disappointed in the federal judge’s ruling.

“There was a disappointing decision yesterday,” Gov. Hochul said. “I stand by our mandate. When someone is sick and they go to the hospital, they need to know the person who is helping them won’t pass on the virus to them. My responsibility has always been to protect the people of our state and I will stand by the mandate. We will appeal this.”

Flu shot

The governor also emphasized the need for New Yorkers to get their flu shots.

The New York State Department of Health recommends that everyone six months and older receives an influenza vaccination, but they say it’s especially important for people at high risk for complications from flu, including children under age 2, pregnant women and adults over age 65.

People with preexisting conditions such as asthma and heart disease are also at greater risk, as are individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications such as chemotherapy or chronic steroid use.

“We actively monitor both flu activity and COVID-19 to help protect and raise awareness among New Yorkers and encourage them to get vaccinated against both infectious diseases,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.  “Both of these viruses can cause serious complications that may require hospitalization, so while getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 remains the best way to combat these infections, it’s also important to wear a mask, social distance where possible and practice good hygiene in order to stay healthy and reduce hospitalizations.”

The governor received a flu shot during her Wednesday briefing:

Border reopening

The governor said Wednesday that she applauded the White House for reopening the border to travel to and from Canada. Following a 19-month ban of nonessential travel, the United States will open up its doors to travelers and tourists starting in November for those who are fully vaccinated.

“This is good news for the communities on the northern border,” Gov. Hochul said. “They’re neighbors with those across the border.

Canada was first to allow tourists and separated family members to enter the country after cancelling its border restrictions earlier in August. The arriveCAN phone app was introduced at the same period.

Re-election

A new Marist poll released Tuesday showed the governor leading in a hypothetical gubernatorial Democratic primary against other potential candidates, including Attorney General Letitia James and former governor Andrew Cuomo, but she said she isn’t concerned with hypotheticals at this time.

“People have been receptive of our style of leadership, with transparency and collaboration — things this state hasn’t seen in a long time,” Gov. Hochul said. “I will not be distracted on who will or who isn’t running.”

Watch Full Press Conference:


Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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