“And we'll be there without stepping on the local public health agencies — how does that sound?,” stated Governor Kathy Hochul.
Governor Hochul is pledging a new “philosophy” on making future COVID restriction decisions while appearing Tuesday at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine in downtown Buffalo.
“I will not be micromanaging, but I will be giving guidance based on your input. I’ll be giving you the cover you need,” declared Hochul.
In Governor Hochul's first public appearance in her hometown since becoming governor, she says she realizes state government is different then local government.
Unlike past state COVID restrictions handed down from Albany, Hochul says she will listen to local leaders about what's happening in their communities first.
But Hochul is standing her ground when it comes to protecting children as they head back to school full time by putting a mask mandate in place for all schools.
“We will have a mask mandate — this may seem uncontroversial too many of you — I assure that it's not — I assure that I’ve heard that it's not,” remarked Hochul. “I’m willing to make tough decisions any day, anywhere, if I think they'll protect the people of the state. So this is not a problem for me. We'll take bold dramatic action to protect individuals in the state, but particularly our children as we start schools, but also, we'll have the masks and I reflect that.”
Saying it has been a “brutal year for children” who missed so much in-school learning, Hochul has a response to those who feel it's too difficult for children to be masked all day in school.
“I remember my four year old Katie throwing a melt-down over having to put little sneakers on to go to pre-school — she eventually was able to handle something on her feet — kids are resilient — they can handle a mask on their face,” said Hochul.
But the governor says she will remain very flexible in reconsidering when to end a mandate.
“’I’m not leaving open ended mandates— we'll do it now and will assess because there will be parts of our state where the numbers drop,” explained Hochul.
“That's really encouraging to hear because that's exactly what we are asking for,” Tarja Parssinen, parent, WNY Students First.
“We need to see some off-ramps and some metrics around that is what we are asking for,” responded Parssinen.
Governor Hochul says she wants all staffers and teachers to be vaccinated and mandatory weekly tested if they are not full vaccinated.
“It’s those outliers who could hold back the opportunity to open up schools in a safe way and I don't want that to be the case,” stated Hochul
While Governor Hochul wants vaccines to be mandatory for teachers, the governor still has some hurdles to overcome.
“I’m prepared to have those conversations about what it is going to take. If more time off is needed for people to do this — makes sense to me — they should get the time off, but these are all subject to immediate negotiations,” Hochul replied.
Hochul says she’s been holding intense conversations on vaccine mandates with superintendents, teacher union leaders and parent groups.