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State health commissioner says parents should get their children vaccinated before the school year

Elise Amendola

Governor Kathy Hochul said masks will not be required in schools this year, but New York is stockpiling rapid tests and personal protective equipment in anticipation of yet another potential surge of COVID-19 as the fall gets underway.

Karen DeWitt spoke with the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, who said the best protection for kids is to get vaccinated. Bassett also spoke about the current surge of the BA.5 Omicron variant and how to navigate a largely unregulated environment.

"This is a really great time for parents to get their children vaccinated, if they have not already done so," said Bassett

“We still have much lower rates that I’d like to see, particularly in the 5 to 11 year olds,” she adds, who said fewer than 40% of kids in that age group are fully vaccinated.

The health commissioner also offered some advice for navigating the current surge of the BA.5 Omicron variant. She said again, the best protection is to become fully vaccinated. While masks are not required in most indoor settings, she recommends wearing one in places like the grocery store. Masks are still required on many forms of public transportation and the New York City Health Commissioner recommends masking in indoor public settings.

Bassett said while there are more reported cases of COVID-19 this summer than the two previous summers, hospitalizations and deaths are much lower. She credits vaccinations for that.

Bassett is on the fence about whether it’s better to get a second booster shot now, if you have not already done so, or wait until a booster shot more targeted for the Omicron variants becomes available, likely in a couple of months.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to wait for the fall if they feel they’ve been doing a pretty good job at protecting themselves from infection,” she said.

Bassett said she received a second booster shot for added protection when traveling on airplanes and trains.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.