NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The COVID-19 positivity rate in New York state is at 18%, 160 new deaths have been reported, and more than 12,500 people are hospitalized, and a startling number of them are unvaccinated children.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a new plan of attack, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

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The governor has a message for everyone with children.

“Parents should look at their children when they come home from school and say, ‘Do I really want to visit my most precious person in my entire life? Do I really want to visit them in a hospital?'” Hochul said.

COVID VACCINE

Because even though those testing positive for COVID are starting to slow slightly in some parts of the state, the rate of kids getting sick is going up much faster than adults.

“Ninety-one percent of children lying in a hospital bed today, who are in there because they have COVID, are all unvaccinated,” Hochul said.

Watch Marcia Kramer’s report —

Which is why the governor unveiled the new program to increase vaccination rates among children 5 and older. It will consist of marketing campaign, featuring public service announcements in English and Spanish, on television and social media, that will urge pediatricians, parents and guardians to get kids their shots.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett is featured in the first ad.

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“We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of children sick and hospitalized due to the Omicron Variant. Vaccination is simply the best way to protect them,” Bassett says.

Since Omicron hit New York, the number of kids hospitalized with the disease has skyrocketed from 85 in early December to 571 at the end of last week.

Nearly 22% of children 5-11 and 65% of those 12-17 had completed their immunizations as of Monday.

The governor said that is woefully inadequate.

“It’s safe, it’s free, and it protects even the younger siblings who are not eligible. This is important. Get the older siblings vaccinated so the children who are not eligible yet, 5 and under, are protected as well,” Hochul said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Meanwhile, some parents want greater access to work at home. Legislation pending in Albany would give city and state workers better telework options, something sponsors say would work for people who are struggling during the pandemic.

“Juggling child care, trying to pick up the groceries and keep a paying job — these are lifestyle decision that I think employers are going to have to take into consideration,” Sen. Brad Hoylman told CBS2’s Dick Brennan.

The governor and the health commissioner also announced and end to local health departments doing contact tracing. They said with the record number of people testing positive, it is near impossible for officials to notify those who may have been exposed, adding eliminating tracing will allow health departments to use their resources more effectively in testing and vaccination efforts.

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CBS2’s Dick Brennan contributed to this report.

Marcia Kramer