New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed a legislative package aimed at further examining and improving New York state's response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, including legislation S.4962/A.5062, which improves access to New York state’s statewide immunization database for schools and requires the Department of Health (DOH) to allow every school access.
"We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic so we don't make the same mistakes twice," remarked Hochul of the legislation. "These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records, and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road."
One of the cornerstone pieces of legislation passed, S.4516-C/A.7536-B, makes the falsification of a COVID-19 vaccination card a class D felony, while also creating a new class E felony - computer tampering in the third degree for any intentional damage to or alteration of computerized material concerning vaccine provisions.
"The data is clear on vaccination requirements – they work. However, the remarkable ease at which it appears that New Yorkers could falsify vaccination records to feign compliance is astonishing,” New York State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said of the legislation. “This new law will undoubtedly help prosecutors and other law enforcement hold people accountable for the damage they are doing to public health by undermining the efficacy of vaccination requirements in workplaces, businesses, restaurants, and more. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this legislation into law, and to State Senator Kaplan for her partnership leading this bill through the other chamber."
In the same legislative package, two studies to be done by the DOH were also mandated. Legislation S.6375/A.5713 instructs the Commissioner of Health to carry out a rigorous study of ambulatory care and other medical care in general in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while S.6070-A/A.7324-A directs the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to initiate a study on impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on underbanked areas, small businesses, and women- and minority-owned enterprises.