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In Address To Business Leaders, Gov. Hochul Stands By Healthcare Vaccination Mandate

 NY Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at the annual meeting of the state’s Business Council on Lake George Sept. 24, 2021
Karen DeWitt
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NY Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at the annual meeting of the state’s Business Council on Lake George Sept. 24, 2021

Kathy Hochul, in her first speech before New York’s business leaders as governor, says she will focus on economic development and helping workers get better access to child care, as the economy struggles to regain pre-pandemic levels.

Hochul, speaking at the annual meeting of the state’s Business Council on Lake George Friday, says she will intensify efforts to empower the Regional Economic Development Councils, begun by her predecessor former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August over a sexual harassment scandal. But Hochul told the business leaders that she’s open to altering the program.

“I don’t feel constrained that that’s the model we have to stay with,” Hochul said. “I don’t want to dictate from Albany.”

Later, speaking to reporters, the Democrat said she wanted to intensify the focus on reviving downtown areas in struggling cities.

Hochul touched on her plans to increase the amount of a planned 2022 environmental bond act to $4 billion, saying fighting climate change benefits businesses. She vowed to use part of a projected state budget surplus to provide more funding for child care, so that more women can reenter the workforce as the pandemic wanes. But she assured them that she does not plan to go on a “wild spending spree.”

Hochul also stood firm in defending a Monday COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the state’s health care workers, as the requirement faces new legal challenges.

Former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco, who is now a private attorney in Buffalo, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 security workers at state-run hospitals who say the mandate goes against their constitutional rights. Vacco, who was also at the gathering, says his clients want the option of regular testing instead. He says that alternative is available to the state’s teachers.

“In this instance the health care workers are being treated in a disparate fashion,” Vacco said. “Because their choice is vaccination or termination.”

Hochul says she will be announcing more steps before the end of the day on Monday to help ease any staffing shortages at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities, associated with the vaccination mandate.

“I’m still working on the legality of what I will need to do,” Hochul said. “It is still my hope that as the hours tick down that more people realize they have a responsibility to protect their patients and to protect their fellow workers. So we’re hoping that the numbers of people vaccinated will go up in the next few days. But, we are very aggressively putting together a comprehensive strategy to address this. People have until the end of the day Monday to be vaccinated and we’re going to check and see what the situation is by then.”

Hochul said she’s in close touch with health care facilities, and has promised them that she will not “leave them hanging.”

84% of health care workers have already received a vaccine.