Hochul ‘unwavering’ in students returning to school amid COVID-19 surge

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Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday she wants students to return to classrooms for in-person learning following the holiday break. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she’s committed to seeing students return to school next week as planned, as state health officials are pushing for more children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hochul said the state is ramping up its testing capacity this week ahead of the return to school. The state plans to distribute 3 million testing kits to counties and schools before the end of this week.

“Subject to possible changes in the future,” Hochul said of the goal to move students to in-person learning. “But right now, that is absolutely where our position is. It’s unwavering on this date with respect to looking at a date of Jan. 3. We want to get the children back to school.”

Hochul’s remarks Monday morning come as Health Commissioner Mary Bassett warns that health officials are noticing an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations amongst children under the age of 18.

Bassett presented data Monday showing that pediatric hospitalizations have more than doubled compared to the beginning of this month. At least 184 people under the age of 18 were hospitalized with COVID last week, according to the state’s figures.

Bassett said pediatricians should be aware of the increased frequency of child cases when making diagnoses and that parents should make it a priority to get their children vaccinated.

“The immunization coverage in this group, the vaccination coverage remains too low and that’s a second reason why we released these data, to alert people to the fact that we need to get child vaccinations up,” Bassett said.

According to the state data, only about a quarter of children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Hochul said she plans to roll out a new plan on Friday, to combat what she called the winter surge of COVID-19.