NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – With the Omicron variant spreading and New York breaking yet another record for people testing positive, Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled Friday what she called her “Winter Surge Plan 2.0.”
It involves more rapid testing, sending dozens of new ambulance teams to New York City, and a dramatic plea for people to get vaccinated.READ MORE: New York Workers' Compensation Board Offers Resources For COVID Long Haulers
As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, the Omicron-driven COVID surge is continuing unabated – 76,555 new cases and a 22.5% positivity rate.
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“It’s almost not worth saying we’re breaking records. We’re breaking records every day,” Hochul said.
Hochul made a dramatic plea for New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted as the best way to avoid the worst effects of the disease and to avoid hospitalization.
Hochul said most of the COVID patients in New York hospitals are unvaccinated.
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“The latest data we have is 30 per 100,000 cases are unvaxxed, compared with 2.1 who are vaccinated,” she said. “If you are vaccinated, you have a very low chance of being hospitalized.”
The governor and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett also pleaded with parents to get their kids vaccinated due to a rise in children being hospitalized. The week of Dec. 5, there were 50 kids that had to be hospitalized. This week so far, there have been 299.
Watch Marcia Kramer’s report
“I think all of us as a society recognize a responsibility to protect children,” Bassett said. “We have too many children under the age of 12 who are eligible for vaccination who aren’t vaccinated. It’s only 17.5%, maybe 18.5% today that are fully vaccinated.”
Hochul’s plan includes:
- Extending the mask or vaccine requirement for businesses for two weeks, until Feb. 1
- Requiring CUNY and SUNY students to get booster shots before they return for spring semester
- Sending 37 million rapid testing kits to schools so they can stay open
- Distribute five million KN95 masks
- A new program to train National Guard members as EMTs
- Sending 50 FEMA ambulance teams to New York City to augment EMS, which has been depleted by illness
As part of her plea for people to get vaccinated and boosted, the governor enlisted a wide range of elected officials, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor-elect Eric Adams to make video testimonials. But Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running against Hochul for governor, said the plan falls far short.
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“We need to be marketing boosters every day through TV commercials across the state, from hospitals and doctors – not politicians,” Suozzi said.
Suozzi said the state needs to ramp up testing sites, including drive-throughs.
Hochul said there are 1,800 test sites in the state, with 13 more opening this week and six more next week.
WATCH: Gov. Kathy Hochul Outlines Winter Surge 2.0 Plan
Health officials fear things could only get worse.
“I hope people do stay cautious and keep their guard up, meaning please keep masking, even indoors, even when you’re amongst friends and family that you may not live with,” immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh told CBS2’s Dick Brennan.
Dr. David Goldberg, assistant professor at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, says the main concern is the number of people who are still unvaccinated.
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With 2022 upon us, many are concerned about what we face next from COVID.
“Are we at the point where we’re just going to have to learn to live with some form of this virus down the road?” Brennan asked.
“That is the big concern,” Goldberg said. “Will we ever be in a position where you can go to the theater or fly [on] a plane without wearing a mask? I don’t think anyone knows.”
Another headache for the new year: the flu. Doctors say it’s once again surging.
“Flu is up. It’s 600% than it was a couple of years ago, so I’m just worried that a twindemic could be catastrophic on the health care system,” Parikh said.
So doctors say it’s more important than ever to get both your COVID and flu vaccines.MORE NEWS: New York City Schools Announce New COVID Isolation Rules Starting Next Week
CBS2’s Dick Brennan contributed to this report.