In March 2020, our world was turned upside down when the first wave of COVID-19 took the nation by storm and today, significant pandemic-related challenges remain. Still, despite the worrying emergence of the new omicron strain and the accompanying uptick in cases, we will enter 2022 with new leadership under Governor Kathy Hochul, freely available FDA-approved vaccines and a greater understanding of how to keep ourselves and others safe. While we saw significant medical progress in the fight throughout 2021, we cannot let our guards down. It is only by continuing to mask and receiving vaccinations and boosters that we can continue fighting this virus and make 2022 a happier and healthier year.
Recently, President Biden outlined several steps the U.S. government will be taking to address the risks posed by COVID-19. Accessing at-home testing has been a significant obstacle for many Americans throughout the pandemic. To combat this, the Biden administration plans to purchase half a billion COVID test kits and mail them to those who want them, beginning in January. Additionally, the federal government plans to open new federal testing sites across the country, along with new pop-up vaccination sites set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
On Dec. 10, Governor Hochul announced that due to a major surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and a slow uptick in vaccination rates, masks will once again be required in all public indoor establishments unless the establishment implements a vaccine requirement. The governor also stressed that schools would remain open. Additionally, Onondaga County plans to distribute 20,000 free at-home COVID-19 tests to county residents. The kits will be distributed by local municipalities.
This coming state legislative session, I’m going to continue working to support our health care workforce and expand resources for our veterans and seniors. During the last session, I passed a law extending the authorization of an upstate flood mitigation task force to address flooding risks in Central New York and across the state (Ch. 164 of 2021). I also sponsored and passed a law clarifying that school districts can charge back association libraries, municipal public libraries and special district libraries for their share of property tax refunds (Ch. 503 of 2021). Even though COVID seems all-encompassing these days, we cannot forget to devote attention to issues like these.
As we move into the new year, we must renew our efforts in fighting back against this virus. I’m confident that if we do so, we will overcome this crisis and build back stronger than before. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 315-452-1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.