Governor Kathy Hochul tours the state vaccination center at Crossgates Mall

“We want people to reconnect with their families, so critically important emotionally, particularly for our older residents, people who’ve been suffering from isolation during most of this, we need those connections and there is a very, very, very safe way to do it … which is simply getting people boosted and continuing to wear the mask,” said Governor Kathy Hochul on Saturday.

The governor’s office on Friday reported two virus-related deaths in Albany County as well as a statewide total so far of 178 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

Acting Health Commissioner Mary Bassett displayed a graph showing infection rates in Norway and Denmark: Once Omicron appeared, the graph lines went nearly straight up. Bassett described the two Scandinavian countries as being “highly vaccinated,” and as having populations with an age distribution more like the United States than South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first reported.

Vaccination, Hochul said on Tuesday, should have been a turning point in the war against COVID-19. “We still have 30 percent of New Yorkers who are not fully vaccinated … This is a crisis of the unvaccinated. Did not have to be — totally preventable.”

ALBANY COUNTY — Nearly a quarter of the county’s probationers — 307 — lack a high school education.

A new program will give them a chance to earn their High School Equivalency, or HSE, diploma.

The Sept. 13 complaint from unnamed health-care workers said they held the sincere religious belief that they “cannot consent to be inoculated . . . with vaccines that were tested, developed or produced with fetal cell line[s] derived from procured abortions.”

A violation of the state requirement for everyone to wear masks indoors when in public “is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation,” according to the governor’s office. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements. 

Starting on Thursday, Dec. 9, hospitals statewide with 10 percent or fewer unstaffed beds available had to cease non-essential elective procedures. Their capacity will be reevaluated in mid-January. “We want to be flexible,” said Governor Kathy Hochul.

On Tuesday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy issued a joint public-health advisory with Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman recommending all residents wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and recommending businesses require employees and customers to wear masks as well.

A pediatric vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

For the first time, two of the new cases are upstate — from Oneida County, near the center of New York.