NEW YORK (AP) — The severity of this year's flu season prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to declare a public health emergency for New York State on Saturday, clearing the way for vaccinations to reach children more easily.
Cuomo's emergency declaration comes as the state Health Department reports that the number of patients admitted to hospitals statewide continues to rise with a 55 percent increase in the last week.
Two children have died in New York State so far and at least 10 New York City adults have died from flu-related illness. Statewide adult deaths aren't tracked.
The executive order permits pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between 6 months and 18 years of age, suspending a section of State Education Law that would normally limit the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to individuals 18 years of age or older.
Cuomo said he has directed his administration, the New York State Health Department and others to use all resources necessary to deal with the problem and to "remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers — children and adults alike — have access to critically needed flu vaccines."
Flu is widespread in most states this year, and at least 20 children have died.
In declaring the health emergency, the governor cited the worst season for influenza in at least four years with all 57 counties statewide and all five boroughs of New York City counting among the 19,128 cases reported so far. That's more than four times the 4,404 positive laboratory tests reported during last year's flu season.