Despite record level of COVID cases in NY, Hochul vows to keep schools open

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- For the fourth consecutive day, New York State saw a record level of positive COVID cases -- 23,391, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday.

Despite the new record, the governor vowed that schools will stay open amid the surge of the omicron variant.

"We are keeping our schools open, let me repeat that, we are keeping our schools open," Hochul said. "Because we are dealing with a very different variant at this time, we believe that it is critically important that our children not end up in the same situation they were for so many months when they were so displaced from their normal environment ... we are in a different environment, different circumstance."

Hochul said part of her administration's winter surge plan is committing to keeping schools open.

"Our school districts will follow the Test to Stay protocols and make sure they are no longer required to have a PCR test to return, but a rapid test, we will help out, we will take responsibility," she said. "We are in communication with the school superintendents, we ordered two million tests, right to the schools."

Under the program, endorsed by the CDC, exposed students can take a test, and return to school if they are negative.

Many districts have wanted to institute the program, but not all could afford the tests. Part of New York's plan includes distributing those two million at-home tests to school districts across the state.

Additionally, Hochul said there is "no reason" why employees shouldn't come back to work in a fully vaccinated environment.

Businesses with mandatory vaccination (or masking, under her policy) "are doing the right thing and there is no reason people shouldn't go back to those, no reason why they shouldn't."

WATCH | Dr. Zuckerman answers viewer questions on COVID, omicron variant:
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Dr. Zuckerman, VP of Infection Prevention at Hackensack Meridian Health Network, answers viewer questions on COVID and omicron.

Hochul said they have seen positive news from other nations impacted by the omicron variant. She said while the numbers went up quickly, the severity was not close to what is was with delta.

"It's not March of 2020, it's not even December of 2020, just to keep things in perspective," Hochul said.

Meanwhile, Hochul said the number of hospitals with limited capacity has decreased to 28, from 32, indicating "some stability" with hospital capacity amid staffing shortage.

And the state will add more than 40 new vaccination and booster pop-up sites.

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Sandra Bookman has the latest on the omicron surge impacting New York City.

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