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Gov. Kathy Hochul Hits The Ground Running, Outlines Priorities: Fighting COVID, Financial Relief, Ethics Reform

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- We witnessed history Tuesday with the swearing in of Gov. Kathy Hochul, the first woman to climb to the highest office of the state.

She was sworn in publicly just after 10 a.m., becoming the 57th governor of the Empire State.

Tuesday afternoon, she addressed New Yorkers for the first time as their leader.

She announced her top priorities, including a mask mandate and COVID testing program for schools.

She also hinted at new vaccine requirements coming soon, and promised to get more direct aid to New Yorkers struggling since the pandemic.

FULL VIDEO: Gov. Kathy Hochul's Inaugural Address 

Hochul also took action to clean up the culture in Albany.

"I want people to believe in their government again," she said.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reports, Hochul must have been wearing a pair of sneakers, as she hit the ground running, intent on proving to New Yorkers, members of the legislature, and, yes, members of the state Democratic committee, that she has the chops to be governor, win a four year term in her own right: That she is the "un-Cuomo."

Only five hours after she was symbolically sworn in as the first woman to reach the highest rung of power in New York state in nearly 250 years, Hochul showed New York's political cognoscenti that she's not just some upstate flower chosen by Andrew Cuomo to balance his ticket.

The state's first female governor is going to be, in her words, "direct, straight-talking and decisive."

"As I undertake the weighty responsibilities before me, know that I have the confidence, the courage and the ability to lead New York forward and make New York's women proud," Hochul said.

She grabbed the job by the throat, announcing wide-ranging priorities to deal with some of the state's pressing problems. First up: Statewide mask mandate, so schools from Brooklyn to Buffalo, throughout the state, can open safely next month.

"I'm also immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools," Hochul said.

Hochul also wants vaccinations or testing for school staff.

"We need to require vaccinations for all school personnel, with an option to test out weekly - at least for now. To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships, and I'm working now on getting this done," Hochul said.

Concerned that the Delta variant may hurt the economy, she also held out the possibility that further vaccination mandates could be in the offing.

"Much progress has been made, but too many are yet not vaccinated, putting themselves and their communities at risk," Hochul said. "New Yorkers can expect new vaccine requirements and more on that soon."

Since she is taking office to replace the scandal-tarred Cuomo, charged by Attorney General Letitia James with sexually harassing 11 women, Hochul made sexual harassment reforms a top priority.

"I'm directing an overhaul of state government policies on sexual harassment and ethics. Starting with requiring that all training be done live, instead of allowing people to click their way through a class," Hochul said.

She also called for a "fresh, collegial" approach to governing, in direct contrast to Cuomo's dictatorial style.

Before her speech, the "un-Cuomo" met with legislative leaders to discuss some other must-do initiatives, including the eviction moratorium that expires at the end of the month. Tenants and landlords are both seeking help.

"I am not at all satisfied with the pace that this COVID relief is getting out the door. I want the money out now. I want it out with no more excuses and delays," Hochul said.

She's also eager to start sending out money from the excluded workers fund, intended to help those who weren't eligible for unemployment benefits or stimulus checks during the pandemic.

"We'll take the same focused approach to our excluded workers find the money is there. And these people are just as impacted by COVID. And they need help now," Hochul said.

"In a new era of transparency, one of my hallmarks in my administration, to me it's very simple, will focus on open, ethical governing that New Yorkers will trust," Hochul added.

She also said she will sign an executive order requiring ethics training for every New York state government employee, which she says is "shockingly" not currently a requirement.

"To achieve all this, and so much more, we must and will work together. Across every corner of the state, we'll have a fresh and collaborative approach. I've already reached out my hand in friendship to many elected officials who too are eager for a new relationship with the state," Hochul said.

And while some thought that Hochul gave an Emmy-winning performance, there's a certain former chief executive who's going to have to kiss his Emmy statue goodbye. On Tuesday, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences withdrew the Emmy it gave Andrew Cuomo for his 2020 COVID briefings.

Editor's note: This story first appeared on August 24.


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