ALBANY — New York’s COVID-19 state of emergency is coming to an end, Gov. Hochul announced on Monday.
The governor said she will not extend special pandemic powers that included a suspension of state contract rules and the easing of regulations related to hospitals and health care workers.
The move comes amid falling case numbers as well as criticism from Republicans who have accused Hochul of granting sweetheart deals to donors.
“We’re feeling comfortable that we can suspend them,” Hochul said following an event at the National Urban League headquarters in Harlem. “We have been following the normal procurement rules for some time, but this allowed us some other extraordinary measures that we won’t need right now.”
Hochul has already scaled back many COVID-era safety guidelines, including relaxing rules for schools and dropping mask mandates for public transportation.
Republicans have repeatedly called on the Democratic governor to end the Empire State’s remaining emergency declarations allowing for no-bid contracts, and another easing rules for health care workers battling the pandemic.
Hochul has taken heat as the state signed off on a $600 million deal with a company for at-home COVID tests as people connected with the firm contributed more than $300,000 to her campaign, the Albany Times Union reported.
“Thanks to the continued pressure from Republicans, public pushback in nearly every sector of the state and well-deserved criticism from good-government groups and the media, the governor will no longer be able to skirt important checks and balances built into normal state operations through her emergency powers,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Oswego) said in a statement.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, Hochul had extended her administration’s pandemic-related emergency powers on a monthly basis since the highly transmissible Omicron variant first began to spread last November.
Criticisms have ticked up in recent months as Hochul came under fire from her political opponents, including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), whom she will face off against on the ballot in November.
“This should have happened a [very] long time ago,” Zeldin said in a statement. “With this power she granted herself, Hochul suspended the state’s competitive bidding laws. … She’s a crook and needs to be fired on Tuesday, Nov. 8.”
Several other health-related emergency declarations remain in place as the state continues to face a monkeypox outbreak and officials attempt to increase polio vaccinations after the first U.S. case of disease was recorded in New York this summer.
But with COVID cases and hospitalizations remaining relatively low and new Omicron-focused boosters becoming widely available, the governor said it’s time to reassess the state’s approach to the pandemic.
“We wanted to see what the numbers were when time came for school, and that was last week,” Hochul said. “The numbers are holding. We now have booster shots, which I’m encouraging everybody to get that booster like I just did. And that is a very specific booster. It’s highly protective.”
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