Incoming New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday stopped short of ruling out statewide vaccination requirements, saying she will be "looking at the possibility of mandates."
Hochul, when asked if she was open to a statewide policy similar to New York City requiring proof of vaccination for some indoor activities, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that she was "open to all options."
"I'll be looking at [the] possibility of mandates, but not saying they're in or out, until I know all the facts," Hochul said.
It is unclear whether Hochul, the lieutenant governor who will replace Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Aug. 24, would have the authority to issue such a mandate. The emergency powers the State Legislature granted Cuomo in 2020 to make COVID-19-related directives have expired.
That question of authority could also hamper Hochul's wish for children to wear masks in schools to stop the spread of the coronavirus, she acknowledged in a TV appearance Thursday. She said officials will leave the decision up to school districts for now while monitoring the situation, but she expects there to be school mask mandates in the future.
"I want to just assure people that circumstances continue to change, and I don't want to have a hard and fast rule from day one," Hochul said Sunday.
Hochul said she has been assembling a team of public health experts, and planned on speaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.
"There's a lot of anxiety out there," Hochul said. "I'm going to be focused on a targeted approach within the communities where there is the greatest hesitancy. Some areas are very high, others are low ... we're going to get this right."
About 68% of Long Islanders have had at least one vaccine dose, according to state Health Department data. 5,149 of them received their first dose Saturday, health officials said.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told "Fox News Sunday" he was concerned by the increase nationwide in children who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and called the trend "very worrisome."
"I think traditionally people kind of considered, ‘Well, you know, kids aren't going to get that sick with this.’ More than 400 children have died of COVID-19, and right now we have almost 2,000 kids in the hospital, many of them in ICU, some of them under the age of 4," Collins said. "So anybody who tries to tell you, ‘Well, don't worry about the kids, the virus won't really bother them,’ that's not the evidence. And especially with delta being so contagious, kids are very seriously at risk. And it's up to all of us to do everything we can to protect them."
Pediatricians told Newsday last week they have seen an uptick in the number of Long Island children getting COVID-19, prompting concern for the upcoming school year as the delta variant spreads and individual school districts decide mask and vaccination policies for their students, faculty and staff.
Long Island's positivity rate has also been trending upward since bottoming out in June and July. The seven-day average for positivity in testing Saturday was 3.69%, a level similar to that of this past April, according to a Newsday analysis.
On Saturday, 379 people in Nassau and 340 in Suffolk tested positive for the virus, according to the state Health Department. Two people in Nassau died, and there were another 16 fatalities in the rest of the state.
Fauci continued to urge people to get vaccinated and wear masks on CBS' "Face The Nation." He called on Americans to "put aside all of these issues of concern about liberties and personal liberties and realize we have a common enemy and that common enemy is the virus."
"We really have to all pull together to get on top of this. Otherwise, we're going to continue to suffer as we're seeing right now," Fauci said.
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