A new group of health care workers in New York face a deadline this week to get vaccinated against COVID-19 under a state mandate or risk losing their jobs.
Some hospital and nursing home staff that didn't comply with a prior deadline remain on unpaid leave.
Home health aides, staff at certain assisted living and adult care facilities as well as adult day health care programs will need to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday, the mandate says. The mandate for workers at hospitals and nursing homes went into effect on Sept. 27.
Meanwhile, the nation’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 700,000 in recent days, a figure the nation’s top infectious disease expert described as "staggering."
"Hopefully, that will then spur us to realize that we do have interventions, in the form of a vaccine, to prevent infection, to prevent severe disease, to prevent death," Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an interview on CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday. "So, when you see a number like this, I would hope people would say, ‘Well, we have a tool to not let that get any worse. Let's utilize it.’"
Fauci said the nation appears to be "turning the corner" on the latest COVID-19 surge, but pointed out the U.S. has experienced "close to 20 months of surges that go up and then come down and then go back up again."
"The way to keep it down, to make that turnaround continue to go down is to do what we mentioned — get people vaccinated," he said.
State and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said 71.5% of all New Yorkers have received at last one vaccine dose and 63.9% have completed their vaccine series.
There were 4,584 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the state on Saturday, including 205 in Nassau County and 432 in Suffolk County.
Thirty additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported to the state on Saturday for an overall state death toll of 44,641. Two of the deceased were from Suffolk County and one person from Nassau County.
"The vaccine is the way forward, and we have to get as many eligible New Yorkers to take the shot as soon as we possibly can," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.
Hochul said last week she is looking to expand the current COVID-19 mandate to include other health care workers, such as those who work in prisons and mental health treatment facilities.
Health care systems on Long Island fired or furloughed hundreds of workers last week who defied the mandate to get vaccinated.
Northwell Health, which has a strict COVID-19 vaccination policy that surpasses the state mandate, said "a few hundred" employees were fired for refusing to get the shot. The majority of its 77,000 plus workforce is vaccinated, officials said.
Staff at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside have until Monday to get at least one shot or lose their jobs. The number of workers on unpaid furlough for refusing to get vaccinated dropped steadily last week to just over two dozen by Friday.
Federal officials are examining whether booster shots are needed for all fully vaccinated people, amid concerns the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines may wane over time — especially in the face of the highly-contagious delta variant.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has scheduled meetings on Oct. 14 and 15 to review the use of a booster shots for fully vaccinated people who have received either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA has already signed off on an emergency use authorization that allows booster shots for certain fully vaccinated people who received the Pfizer vaccine, such as those 65 years of age and older as well as people at high-risk for severe COVID-19.
An advisory panel of the FDA is scheduled to meet Oct. 26 to review data on the use of COVID-19 vaccines on children between the ages of 5 and 11.
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