New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday she does not intend to renew her emergency powers related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For much of the past year, the Democratic governor has repeatedly re-upped a pair of executive orders each month granting her such powers — one allowing her administration to bypass state contracting procedures to purchase goods and services related to the COVID response, and another relaxing licensing rules for health care workers and expanding the list of those who can administer vaccines.
We're feeling comfortable that we can suspend them.
Now, with the first of those orders set to lapse at the end of Monday, Hochul was asked whether she intends to renew her emergency powers and said she "will not be renewing them this time." On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Hochul, Hazel Crampton-Hays, clarified the governor was referring only to the contract-related order. No decision has been made on the second order, expiring later this month, regarding health care workers, she said.
By allowing the first order to expire, it means Hochul's administration will have to revert to the normal buying rules — which, in many cases, include potentially time-consuming safeguards like taking competitive bids and submitting contracts to the state Comptroller’s Office for review.
“We're feeling comfortable that we can suspend them,” Hochul said Monday of the order. “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 made the announcement while speaking to reporters following a ceremony marking a construction milestone at the National Urban League’s new headquarters in Harlem.
While the governor has said her administration has been following the state’s contracting rules in recent months, she has faced criticism — particularly from her Republican foes, including gubernatorial opponent Rep. Lee Zeldin — for using her emergency powers to bypass them last winter.
During the omicron surge, her administration quickly purchased more than $600 million in at-home COVID tests from Digital Gadgets. According to the Times Union, people connected with the company have contributed more than $300,000 to Hochul’s political campaign.
Hochul has denied the campaign contributions had anything to do with the contract award, which resulted in millions of tests delivered to the state while students were returning to school.
“We wanted to see what the numbers were when time came for school, and that was last week,” she said Wednesday. “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.”
The second COVID-related executive order remains in effect and is currently set to expire Sept. 27th. Among other things, that order allowed out-of-state health care workers to work in New York regardless of where they’re licensed, along with allowing paramedics to issue the COVID vaccine.
If Hochul were to allow the second order to lapse, it would mean paramedics would no longer be able to administer the COVID vaccine. But it wouldn’t have an effect on their ability to give the monkeypox and polio vaccination shots. Hochul has issued separate emergency orders for both of those vaccines, which will continue on.
Hochul said she won’t hesitate to reinstate her emergency powers if the state’s COVID numbers take a turn for the worse.
“I want to make sure New Yorkers know that if circumstances change, I'll make sure that I have all the tools necessary to protect their health,” she said.
Clarification: This story was updated Tuesday after the Governor's Office clarified it has not yet decided whether to extend a second COVID-related emergency order that is set to expire later this month.