NEW YORK (WABC) -- As COVID cases reached new highs in New York again on Friday, the state released new return-to-work guidelines for essential workers who test positive for the novel coronvirus.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday that fully vaccinated, asymptomatic essential workers can return to work five days after a positive case. However, unvaccinated workers will have to quarantine for 10 days.
She says the new guidelines are essential to keeping the workforce staffed during the omicron spike.
"We want to make sure our critical workforce, who we have relied on since the beginning and I want to make sure that our workers can get back," Hochul said. "That includes our health care, elder care, home health care, sanitation, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, you know who you are."
Hochul said she wanted to wait and see what the guidance was from the CDC, which on Thursday loosened rules that call on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive.
The CDC determined that workers would be allowed to come back to work after seven days if they test negative and don't have symptoms, while isolation time could be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages.
The new announcement comes after the state set another record in new positive COVID cases with 44,431. The good news is that the state recorded just 4,744 new hospitalizations statewide, which -- while the highest since April -- is still drastically lower than this time in 2020.
"With a lot of testing, the upside is we are getting a handle of where the cases are and how we can control that spread," Hochul said. "We expect many of those who do test positive won't show symptoms or even just very mild symptoms that won't require them to go to a hospital or even see a doctor."
The governor also announced a new milestone on Christmas Eve. She says 95% of adults over the age of 18 have now received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. However, she stressed that one dose is not enough.
Hochul highlighted the importance of COVID testing, announcing that 13 more testing sites are being launched on December 29, "even though it has been challenge to find staff."
"To get through this winter surge and protect New Yorkers, we will use every tool at our disposal," Hochul said. "By mobilizing testing sites throughout the state, we will make sure testing is more accessible and convenient for New Yorkers."
Starting on Monday, December 27, New Yorkers can make an appointment for a COVID-19 test at one of the locations online.
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Meanwhile in New York City, 259 new hospitalizations were reported along with 12,915 new COVID cases.
The city handed out more at-home tests Friday after giving away thousands across the five boroughs on Thursday, and a giveaway in Flatbush turned to pandemonium as lines snaked through neighborhoods in every borough.
Candida Rodriguez spent an hour in line in Washington Heights.
"My partner tested positive, so I'm just out there making sure I'm OK as well," Rodriguez said. "But I'm probably positive as well."
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