Incoming governor Hochul urges New Yorkers to work together to keep children, school communities safe this fall

New York Democratic Lt. Governor Hochul attends a mass inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in New York
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul attends a mass inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 17, 2021.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who will take over as New York state governor in 13 days, told New Yorkers Wednesday it is “going to take all of us working together to keep our children safe” as they prepare to head back to school next month. 

“I know this last year and a half has been so challenging for families and businesses across our state and sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s getting easier,” Hochul said during a press conference in the state capitol’s Blue Room which was uncharacteristically packed with reporters. 

“It’s going to take all of us working together to keep our children safe, our teachers safe and anyone who works in a school safe,” Hochul added, noting the uptick in new cases stemming from the coronavirus’ delta variant. 

Hochul will become the state’s first female governor once embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo steps down from his post later this month. Cuomo announced Tuesday he would resign as governor of New York after an investigation led by Attorney General Letitia James found he sexually harassed 11 women and fostered a “toxic” working environment for his female staffers. 

Hochul will formally announce her “vision for the state of New York” as it continues to fight against the virus,  but stressed that in the interim she will be “fully engaged” with the state health department in the meantime. 

“We’ve been getting regular briefings up to the minute,” Hochul told reporters. “I am well aware the circumstances in our state are frightening people.”

The Delta variant’s spread across the state, and likewise across the country, continues to speed up with it now accounting for 93% of all new cases according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the last month, the number of New Yorkers testing positive for the virus has increased six-fold, according to state data. 

On Tuesday, 4,150 New Yorkers tested positive for the virus while just over 660 people tested positive for COVID across the state on July 10, according to the New York State Department of Health’s COVID-19 tracker.  

The spread of the delta variant and its ability to cause more serious illness in children has alarmed parents and sparked questions about whether or not it is safe to send kids, especially those unable to get the vaccine, back into classrooms this fall.

In a surprise move, the New York State Department of Health dropped plans to issue COVID health and safety guidelines to school districts, punting the responsibility to localities and individual schools themselves. 

Hochul did not say if her administration will require the state department of health to issue guidelines ahead of the fall but said her office would continue to review guidance issued from the CDC.