Niagara Gazette — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has declared a public health emergency for New York state because of the severity of the flu season.
Cuomo made the announcement Saturday. His executive order allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between 6 months and 18 years of age.
The order also suspends for the next month the section of State Education Law limiting the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents only to individuals 18 years of age or older.
The order comes as nearly 20,000 cases of influenza have been reported in the state so far this season. That's more than four times the 4,400 positive laboratory tests reported all of last season.
Locally, a health official has confirmed that a 32-year-old woman died at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, but that her lab tests are still out and haven't confirmed that it was in fact the flu.
Since 90 percent of flu deaths involve the elderly. The New York State Health Department only requires hospitals to report when a child or teenager dies of the flu.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said, "To date in New York, we have had two pediatric deaths from the flu. New York averages about 1,400 deaths per year from the flu and based on the cases so far, we expect that to be worse."
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is now limiting the number of patient visitors.
During the current flu outbreak, only one visitor is permitted to visit patients — and no one under the age of 14 can visit a nursing unit. Only father’s and grandparents have access to the maternity unit.
Nationally, U.S. hospitals are increasingly cracking down on employees who won't get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.
"Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I'm a nurse," wondered Carrie Calhoun, a longtime critical care nurse in suburban Chicago who was fired last month after she refused a flu shot.