‘We’re not out of the woods,’ says gov as COVID cases tick up and flu and RSV surge

“Complacency is our enemy,” said Governor Kathy Hochul at a Wednesday morning press conference highlighting the nationwide uptick in COVID-19, along with a “dramatic increase” in flu cases and cases of respiratory syncytial virus.

One healthy child has died of influenza in New York State and other pediatric deaths are being investigated, Hochul said.

Sallie Permar, pediatrician-in-chief at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, spoke at the New York City briefing, and noted that children as young as six months can be vaccinated against the flu.

While there is currently no vaccine for RSV, she said that vaccinating against flu and COVID is helpful.

“We are prepared for this triple threat,” said Hochul, who last updated the press on health issues on Oct. 26.

Hochul said the state has close to 8,000 ventilators ready to be deployed and has already distributed some, including five to Albany Medical Center.

The state has also stockpiled almost 17 million COVID-19 test kits, mostly being used at schools, and she urged people to test themselves.

Hochul said she is keeping in place her Executive Order 4, declaring a statewide disaster emergency due to healthcare staffing shortages, to allow medical professionals from other states to work in New York, and to allow “more professionals to administer vaccinations and tests,” Hochul said.

“There will come a time when it won’t be necessary, but I’m really glad we have this in place as we’re experiencing this winter surge.” Hochul said. “And that’s why it was smart to keep that, even when things were looking better a few months ago.”

She lamented that Congress is no longer providing the level of assistance it had at the height of the pandemic.

Hochul encouraged New Yorkers to “embrace the holidays but not let our guard down.” She cautioned, “We’re not out of the woods. The threat is real.”



Permar described respiratory syncytial virus as “a common cold virus” that typically circulates in late winter and spring but this year is circulating along with the flu.

It can be mild to severe and is worrisome for young infants, the elderly, and the immune compromised, she said.

While there are no antivirals to treat RSV, she said it can often be treated at home by controlling fever and treating underlying asthma.

A doctor should be consulted, Permar said, if fever is prolonged, breathing becomes difficult or rapid, or there is dehydration evidenced by no urination for six or more hours.



The state’s health commissioner, Mary Bassett, who has announced she is leaving her post after about a year to return to her work at Harvard, went over common-sense protocols that New Yorkers should follow during what she said has been called a “tri-demic.”

This includes handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick and encouraging others to do the same, wearing a mask in crowded places, protecting vulnerable people from exposure, and getting vaccinated.

She described the flu vaccine and bivalent COVID vaccine as safe and highly effective.

“It will keep you from getting very sick even if you get infected,” said Bassett of the bivalent vaccine.

She also quoted the “White House COVID czar” as saying, if everyone got a bivalent vaccine, “We could virtually limit all hospitalizations.”

Only 13 percent of the eligible population has gotten a bivalent booster shot, Bassett said.

Bassett stressed that New Yorkes can call 888-TREAT-NY (888-873-2869) to find out about medications for treatments.

Asked by a reporter why flu and RSV cases are going through the roof, Bassett speculated, “We’re coming out of a period when our children were really cloistered.” Since people were not exposed, as they normally would have been, to these viruses, they are now getting infected.

Asked about the political situation that makes mask mandates untenable, “like a third rail,” Bassett said, “People are tired of being told what to do.”

But, she went on, people can make their own decisions — to wear masks and to get vaccinated.

“There’s a limit to how much we can legislate,” she said, adding that vaccination “will keep you from getting very sick.”

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