JOHNSON CITY, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – The woman charged with leading New York State’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic visited the Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City today.

State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett was invited by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo to tour the nursing and pharmacy schools to see the cutting edge technology being used to train future nurses and pharmacists.

Bassett says the nursing shortage in New York is a crisis that is getting worse.

She praises the efforts at BU to fast-track the educational process.

The Commissioner says many nurses have left the profession due to the overwhelming stress brought on by the pandemic.

Doctor Bassett stressed that COVID has not gone away and she encourages people, especially those over 65, to get the new bivalent booster designed to protect against the omicron variant.

She says that while 90% of seniors received the initial course of vaccines, only 25% have gotten even one booster.

“When we first got this vaccine in record time, everyone hoped that it would stop infection. I hoped that it would stop infection. We all hoped that it would but it didn’t. But what it does do is prevent severe illness and death. And for people who are older, this is a true risk. Something like 70% of the deaths during this pandemic have been in older people.”

Bassett says there are currently no plans to resume the large state-sponsored vaccination centers to administer booster shots.

Instead, she says they are readily and conveniently available in doctor’s offices and pharmacies.