In a wide-ranging speech at the University of Albany commemorating Women’s Equality Day, Hochul, a Democrat, shared her aspirations “to get women back to where they were” before the onset of the pandemic two years ago.
This would start, she said, with a broad study of COVID-19’s impact on New York’s women, employers, and “everybody” affected.
“We’re going to peel back every dynamic and let’s look at, not just in the workplace, but what happened to women when the decisions were made to have all the kids go home and learn remotely,” Hochul said.
“Wow. Wow, what a mistake that was. What a mistake that was. Women couldn’t go to their jobs. They lost their jobs. Or they thought they were back at their jobs and one child in a classroom tests positive, the whole class goes home for a week and a half.”
The New York governor described the disrupted education delivery as “nothing short of chaos” and noted that “it just seems to have not ended.”
Hochul vowed to “get to the bottom” of what happened by holding hearings across the state to hear from New Yorkers, including women, employers, and “everybody,” with an aim to avoid an “unfair” pandemic response that results in job losses.
“We have to figure out how it happened and make sure that we have the procedures in place so women are in a far better place, and don’t let it happen again,” she said.
All New York COVID-19 School Restrictions End
Hochul’s remarks come days after she announced on Monday the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in New York schools.
“The days of sending an entire classroom home because one person was symptomatic or tests positive, those days are over,” Hochul said at a press conference.
This comes weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped quarantine and social distancing recommendations for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases.
Going forward, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, other children in the classroom who don’t have symptoms will remain in school as long as they wear a mask.
“No longer are we going to be sending kids home, keeping them away from that essential experience of being together in the classroom, because we are now still dealing with the fallout of those decisions made when we had less information,” she said.
Will Barclay, leader of the New York State Assembly Republican Conference, expressed his support for Hochul’s decision.
“With a plan to follow common-sense and science New York is finally taking a step to put children first,” Barclay wrote on Twitter. “Students deserve every opportunity to succeed in their education and that begins inside the classroom.”
Hochul was second in charge under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he ordered schools to shut down on March 18, 2020.
Schools would go on to operate in a hybrid fashion for the next two years, switching between in-person and remote learning as COVID-19 cases popped up.
This approach resulted in “suicide rates, depression, real mental health issues that were not there before for many of these children,” according to Hochul, who described the situation as deeply troubling. She stressed the importance of in-person learning.
Hannah Ng contributed to this report.