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Hochul requiring booster shots for SUNY, CUNY students, starting Jan. 15

Speaking from Albany on New Year's Eve, Gov.

Speaking from Albany on New Year's Eve, Gov. Kathy Hochul talked about the COVID-19 "Winter Surge Plan 2.0." Credit: NY Governor's Office

All SUNY and CUNY students eligible for a vaccine booster shot must receive one by Jan. 15, and faculty must show proof of vaccination, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday, as the state set another one-day record for new COVID-19 cases.

SUNY and CUNY students already must be vaccinated, but the omicron variant is much better at eluding vaccines than previous variants, although the vaccines still are highly effective at preventing serious illness. Boosters greatly reduce the chance of infection and illness.

Hochul also announced during her COVID-19 briefing from Albany that she was extending a statewide mandate from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1 for businesses to either require masking or proof of vaccination in indoor public places.

In addition to SUNY and CUNY, a growing number of universities nationwide, including Columbia University and New York University in Manhattan, are instituting booster requirements. Eligibility for a booster shot starts six months after receiving the second Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and two months following the Johnson & Johnson shot.

In addition to getting boosters, students must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test when returning to campus, Hochul said.

Asked when faculty must show they are vaccinated, SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis said in an email that the system is working with the governor's office and unions to implement the new mandate.

Caren Gough, a lecturer in the science education program at Stony Brook University, said, "I totally agree with it. The more we get people vaccinated, the better we’ll be."

Gough, who said she is fully vaccinated and boosted, added, "There’s a lot of unknowns, but I believe we have to go with what the science is telling us."

Hochul’s higher education announcement came as COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers continued to surge. Long Island's one-day positivity rate surged past 27%.

In the past seven days, the number of COVID-19 patients in Long Island hospitals increased 73.3% — to 1,374 on Thursday, from 793 on Dec. 24, according to state data. On Wednesday, there were 1,230 patients with COVID-19 in Long Island hospitals.

Statewide, the increase over the same time period was 61.9% — to 7,919 on Thursday, from 4,891 on Dec. 24.

Unvaccinated people still are far more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people, Hochul said. The latest state data: The hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people is 30 per 100,000 people; for vaccinated people it is 2.1 per 100,000.

"It's an extraordinary difference," the governor said.

Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said pediatric COVID-19 hospital admissions continued to climb. There have been 299 pediatric admissions so far in the week beginning Sunday, up from 70 in the week of Dec. 5 to 11, she said.

On Long Island, 27.1% of the 51,281 COVID-19 test results Thursday were positive: 6,861 in Nassau and 5,772 in Suffolk. The seven-day positivity rate rose to 20.75%, from 17.32% on Tuesday.

The state Thursday set yet another new one-day record for confirmed COVID-19 cases: 76,555. Experts believe case numbers likely were higher early in the pandemic, when tests were scarce.

Hochul said one reason the state’s numbers are so high is that "we’re testing more."

She pointed to how New York had the third-highest testing rate per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center: 1,527.9 daily tests per 100,000 people as of Friday.

Eighty New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Thursday, including seven in Nassau and three in Suffolk.

Hochul on Friday said that, in an effort to protect nursing home residents, she asked White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients in a phone call Thursday to allow New York to require nursing home visitors to be vaccinated. Hochul said she doesn’t have the power to do so on her own.

In the meantime, she urged only vaccinated people to visit nursing homes.

"Visit your loved one, but also don’t be the reason that loved one does not survive because you brought the virus into the nursing home, for them and their neighbors," she said.

Meanwhile, Hochul's mask mandate has limited effect on Long Island. Incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said he will not enforce it, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Thursday reiterated the county will not fine businesses for violating the mandate and instead is focusing on outreach and education.

With Craig Schneider

What to know

All SUNY and CUNY students eligible for vaccine booster shots must receive one by Jan. 15, and they must test negative for COVID-19 before returning to campus, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

In addition, faculty must be vaccinated, the governor said. Details of that plan are being worked out among SUNY, Hochul's office and unions, a SUNY spokeswoman said.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases on Long Island continued to surge. Hospitalizations are up 73% over seven days. The seven-day positivity rate reached 20.75%.

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