Governor Kathy Hochul today announced Winter Surge Plan 2.0, a new targeted effort to bolster New York's fight against the winter surge. Governor Hochul's comprehensive plan focuses on five core areas: keeping students in school, doubling down on masks and testing, preventing severe illness and death, increasing access to vaccines and boosters, and working together with local leaders. Hours before the New Year begins, Governor Hochul also urged New Yorkers to celebrate New Year's Eve in a safe, responsible way.
"As we head into the holiday weekend, New York State is mobilizing every resource at our disposal to fight the winter surge and keep New Yorkers safe," Governor Hochul said. "We can get through this surge through targeted actions, partnerships with local leaders, and by taking common sense steps to keep us all safe: get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask indoors."
"We have every tool to keep our families and communities safe," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "We must ensure we use them all. Governor Hochul's targeted plan to expand vaccination and booster access, mask and test, and increase measures to protect our health care workers is the comprehensive strategy needed to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Leveraging these layered mitigation tactics is how we will protect the health of New Yorkers and effectively manage the winter surge."
1. Keep Schools Open: After two years of remote learning and school closures, Governor Hochul is focused on keeping students in school in the upcoming year. The first plank of Governor Hochul's 5-part plan includes:
- Providing tests to students and school districts: 5.56 million tests arrived for schools this week and between six and seven million more are expected to arrive in the coming days. New York has mobilized 40 trucks and 86 state personnel to distribute tests. Overall, New York State has secured 37 million tests for distribution.
- Working with counties to implement Test-to-Stay: Test-to-Stay policies have proven successful at keeping our kids safe and schools open. If a student tests positive, classmates can take a test kit back home with them and return to the classroom upon receiving a negative result instead of mandatory quarantining.
- Keeping college students and faculty safe: SUNY and CUNY will be introducing a new requirement for all students to get boosters, campuses will require mandatory mask wearing in public indoor spaces, and will require all faculty to be vaccinated. Students will also be required to submit negative tests upon returning to campus.
2. Keep Masking, Keep Testing: Governor Hochul recognizes that to stop the spread of the virus, New Yorkers must continue wearing masks and getting tested for COVID. Governor Hochul will:
- Extend the mask-or-vax requirement: the Department of Health will extend the mask-or-vaccine requirement for an additional two weeks, protecting workers and allowing businesses to remain open.
- Make masks more widely available: New York State has already distributed 5 million KN-95 masks, and more will be distributed through state legislators. Hundreds of thousands of masks will also be distributed for nursing home visitors.
- Launch new testing sites: Governor Hochul will open six new testing sites on January 4, totaling 19 state-run sites statewide. Additionally, Governor Hochul announced the launch of two new testing sites at MTA stations, in addition to previously announced MTA pop-ups.
3. Preventing Severe Illness and Death: With case counts rising, Governor Hochul is making it a priority to prevent severe illness and death by supporting our hospital system. The Winter Surge Plan 2.0 will:
- Distribute antiviral treatments: New York is working with the Biden Administration to secure doses of the antiviral drug Pavloxid and make this treatment more widely available.
- Boost hospital capacity: Governor Hochul will continue enforcing the November 26 Executive Order to boost hospital capacity. Since it took effect, the number of hospitals with limited capacity needing to pause non-essential surgeries has declined from 32 to 21.
- Launch National Guard EMT training: to ramp up our long-term health care workforce capacity needs, the Department of Health and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be launching two pilot EMT training classes on January 5th. This will cover two classes of 40 service members (80 service members in total) who will be able to be deployed by February.
- Secure additional help from Federal partners: in the coming days, we will receive federal Department of Defense (DoD) Medical Response and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). This will include a 35-member DMAT to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 23-member DoD Medical Response Team to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, and 50 new ambulance teams deployed to NYC.
- Protect nursing home residents and workers: the Hochul Administration is in constant contact with all 606 nursing homes in New York and will be providing them with additional PPE to ensure the safety of all patients and staff. Additionally, the Administration is coordinating with hospitals and will be deploying durable medical equipment in continued support of the care for all New Yorkers.
4. Expand Access to Vaccines and Boosters: Vaccines continue to be the best defense against COVID hospitalization and death. While 95% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one shot, there's more to do to increase vaccination and booster rates, especially among children:
- Provide boosters to nursing homes: New York will begin requiring each nursing home to demonstrate their plan to increase vaccination and booster rates among their residents.
- Increase pediatric vaccination: the most unvaccinated eligible cohort is New Yorkers aged 5-11. New York will increase our focus on pediatric vaccination.
- Get booster shots to teenagers: we anticipate approval of Pfizer's booster shot for children aged 12-15 and will immediately begin outreach to that population once ready.
5. Work With Local Partners: From the beginning, Governor Hochul has emphasized that the fight against COVID must take a collaborative approach. Fighting the winter surge requires close collaboration with local partners:
- Let local leaders lead: from New York City to Erie County, local leaders are making smart choices. We will continue this surgical, targeted approach.
- Provide resources to local partners: Governor Hochul will continue to lead a whole-of-government approach to fight COVID, making sure county emergency managers and local school boards have the tests and masks they need.