Gov. Hochul Seeks School Worker Vaccination Mandate, Universal Masking at Schools, Quicker COVID Aid and Change in Culture in Albany
John Jordan | August 24, 2021
ALBANY—In what was the culmination of a tumultuous two weeks in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially resigned at midnight this morning and a short time later, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul became the first woman governor in the history of New York State. The newly installed governor wasted no time in outlining her highest priorities: combating the COVID-19 Delta variant, getting approximately $2 billion in direct federal COVID aid to New Yorkers more quickly and “beginning to change the culture in Albany.”
In terms of actions in the fight against COVID, she said the state must make sure school are safe.
Gov. Hochul said, “We need to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, at least for now.” She said that she is working with all levels of government to set this policy and is also undertaking a new “Back to School” testing program to make coronavirus testing widely available and convenient for students and school staff.
She also said that she is directing the New York State Department of Health to institute “universal masking for anyone entering our schools.” Gov. Hochul also promised to announce later this week a series of school-related policies that she noted would be “concise and consistent, giving the school districts what they have been asking for.”
The governor also vowed to step up vaccinations in the state and also said the state would prepare to administer booster shots. She added the state would do whatever is necessary to deliver booster shots, even possibly reopening mass vaccination sites.
Gov. Hochul then said that she is not satisfied with the pace of the state’s delivery of federal COVID assistance funds to renters and landlords. “I want the money out now. I want it out with no more excuses and delays,” the governor said. She stressed that renters who applied and were approved for assistance cannot be evicted for a year and said that after consulting with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, the state will be launching a targeted campaign to reach more New Yorkers who qualify for COVID rent relief. She also said that her administration will be hiring more staff to process rental assistance applications.
In promising a fresh and more collaborative approach, Gov. Hochul also said that a “dramatic change in culture with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line” was necessary.
She said that she is directing an overhaul of state policies on sexual harassment and ethics, starting with the requirement that all training be conducted live.
Hochul was sworn into office shortly after midnight this morning in the Red Room at the state Capitol by New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.
Earlier in the day Gov. Hochul held a ceremonial swearing in with State Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie in attendance and then met with both legislative leaders.
After the ceremonial swearing in, the 57th governor of New York said, “So this is an emotional moment for me, but it is one that I prepared for and I’m so looking forward to continuing the work we have to do. To that end, I spoke with President Biden last night to talk about a number of issues. He pledged his full support to my administration and anything we need. Particularly I thanked him for the support we’ve received from FEMA and others in terms of cleaning up after Henri and how we were prepared and I want to continue assessing the situation.”
Gov. Cuomo announced on Aug. 10 that he would resign from office in two weeks after the New York State Attorney General’s report on sexual harassment allegations against the governor was released earlier this month.
Hochul, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a JD from Catholic University, served in the U.S. Congress from 2011 to 2013 representing the 26th Congressional District. She has served as Lieutenant Governor under current Gov. Andrew Cuomo since 2015.
Assembly Speaker Heastie in a prepared statement, said of Gov. Hochul taking office, “My colleagues and I know that our state is facing many significant challenges, and we are prepared to partner with Governor Hochul in addressing them. We look forward to working with her to ensure our children can safely return to school, New Yorkers are able to stay in their homes, small businesses can thrive again, our work to end to the scourge of gun violence continues and to fight the resurgence of COVID-19 to finally put this pandemic behind us. We stand ready to work with Governor Hochul to continue moving New York forward.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James noted, “Today is a historic day for New Yorkers with the swearing in of our first female governor, Kathy Hochul. I congratulate Governor Hochul on this incredible accomplishment and wish her well in her new role building on the progress of our great state. I look forward to continuing to work with her and the entire incoming administration.”