ALBANY — State health officials are considering making this year’s influenza vaccine mandatory for public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade who attend in-person classes.
Last month, Massachusetts health officials announced all children aged 6 months or older attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, K-12, colleges and universities would be required to get flu shots as part of an effort to curb respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are looking at that as a possibility,” state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Thursday. “I think public health information is the first necessary thing to do, but we’re looking at all the possibilities to see what we can do.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has encouraged New Yorkers to get their flu shots early this fall. Officials expect the annual flu outbreak will complicate the pandemic because the coronavirus and influenza have similar symptoms, including fever, cough and congestion.
Flu activity peaks between December and February, but can last as late as May, according to the CDC.
“The flu season will also complicate the testing,” Cuomo said. “Many of the testing labs that do the COVID tests also do flu tests, so it’s important people get their shots.”
In the meantime, arguments continue to pop up between the state and federal levels.
The nation’s decrease in positive coronavirus cases is a fraudulent scam after a recent change in federal testing guidelines, Cuomo said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Aug. 24 it would no longer recommend COVID-19 testing for individuals who had been exposed to the disease, but were not experiencing symptoms.
The changes were President Donald Trump’s political ploy, and U.S. states are participating, Cuomo said.
“There is a scam going on in this country people should be alerted to,” the governor said during a conference call with reporters.
Trump has repeatedly attributed increases in the nation’s COVID-19 infections and transmission rates to the high number of coronavirus diagnostic tests conducted in U.S. states.
“If you do fewer tests, you will find fewer cases,” Cuomo said. “It’s a deception. It’s a scam. It’s a fraud, because it suggests to the American people that there are, in fact, fewer positive cases. That’s not reality. You’re just finding fewer cases because you’re testing less.”
State officials have said CDC scientists claim the about-face in coronavirus testing guidelines were politically motivated.
States are reporting fewer new cases of the novel coronavirus, but also fewer COVID-19 tests in a 24-hour period, per federal guidelines.
Cuomo compared COVID-19 statistics in Florida, which showed an average of 65,000 diagnostic tests taken in the southern state in July.
“They’re now doing about 20,000 tests per day — yesterday, they did 14,000 tests,” the governor said. “That’s one-third the number of tests that would probably find one-third of the number of positive cases.
“Some states are following the president’s proposition: Test less and the number of cases will go down. That’s what Florida is doing.”
The president has continuously deceived Americans about the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said, on the heels of Wednesday headlines that Trump knew the coronavirus was “deadly” in February, but felt it was best to keep the American people in the dark. Journalist and author Bob Woodward, who first rose to fame in the 1970s when he and fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein uncovered widespread malfeasance in President Richard Nixon’s administration, details the reports with Trump in his forthcoming book “Rage.”
The state’s rate of new COVID-19 infections remained under 1% positive for the 34th straight day at 0.98% — or 757 additional coronavirus cases after 76,813 tests Wednesday. The state has conducted more than 9 million COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Hospitalizations increased to 482 patients Thursday.
Seven New Yorkers died from the virus Wednesday, up from three on Tuesday.
Tribune News Service contributed to this report.