All healthcare workers in New York State, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities — nursing homes, adult care and other congregate care settings — will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, Sept. 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.
The State Department of Health will issue orders requiring all hospital, long-term care facilities and nursing homes to develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons, the governor said.
To date, 75% of the state’s 450,000 hospital workers, 74% of the state’s 30,000 adult care facility workers, and 68% of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers have completed their vaccine series, according to the governor.
Vaccines or weekly testing is already mandatory for public-facing healthcare workers at state-run hospitals.
Northwell Health, the state’s largest private health system, early this month mandated its more than 76,000 employees to get vaccinated by Aug. 16 or be tested for the virus weekly. Northwell operates 23 hospitals, including Peconic Bay Medical Center, the largest private employer in Riverhead, as well as more than 800 outpatient facilities.
Labor unions representing healthcare workers have opposed mandatory vaccinations. Bothe the New York State Nurses Association, which represents more than 43,000 registered nurses in New York, and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest health care union in the country, oppose vaccine mandates.
The New York State Nurses Association said in a statement last month it supports vaccination as a necessary tool to fight the coronavirus, but said it is only one piece of the puzzle.
“The most effective method to control an infectious pathogen — any infectious pathogen — is a multipronged approach,” the NYSNA said in a July 21 position paper.
Healthcare facilities must prioritize correcting health and safety risks to front-line workers, including providing adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, better screening and cohorting of patients and maintaining adequate staffing levels, the labor union said.
Policymakers must focus on education and vaccination in underserved and under-vaccinated communities and limiting everyone’s exposure by wearing well-fitting masks, maintaining social distancing and improving ventilation in all workplaces and indoor spaces, the union said.
“It is no surprise that there are spikes in COVID-19 cases at the exact moment most state and municipal guidelines on masking and social gathering were relaxed. This clearly illustrates the point that a vaccine-only strategy will continue to threaten public health,” the nurses association said in the statement.
Cuomo, who is stepping down Aug. 23 facing impeachment and investigations over sexual harassment allegations, said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul had been briefed on this major policy directive.
In his announcement yesterday, the governor, citing the spike in cases as the more contagious delta variant spreads across the state — where it is linked to more than 80% of all confirmed cases — said state mandates are needed to establish vaccinated-only admission to private businesses and mandatory vaccinations for teachers.
“[P]rivate businesses will not enforce a vaccine mandate unless it’s the law, and local school districts will be hesitant to make these challenging decisions without legal direction,” Cuomo said in the press release.
Cuomo also announced that the Department of Health has authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for New Yorkers with compromised immune systems, following the CDC’s recommendation last week. Eligible New Yorkers can receive their third dose 28 days after the completion of their two-dose vaccine series, effective immediately, the governor said.
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