This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Robert Brodsky, Matthew Chayes, Lisa L. Colangelo, Scott Eidler, Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones, David Olson and Victor Ocasio. It was written by Jones.
Some medical experts and business leaders on Long Island praised President Joe Biden’s new plan to attack the COVID-19 pandemic as a necessary move to stop the delta variant that is killing hundreds across the country every day.
Biden is requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to have workers vaccinated or tested weekly, while he also is mandating that federal employees and contractors be vaccinated.
The president blamed the 80 million Americans who are eligible for but haven't gotten the shots for prolonging the crisis.
"If the delta variant has taught us anything, it is that we need a far more aggressive national policy that ensures Americans are safe wherever they shop, work, or gather socially," said Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a regional economic development advocacy organization.
"The president’s mandate for businesses over 100 employees gets us far closer to where we need to be in order to put the pandemic behind us," he said.
Matt Cohen, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, a major business umbrella group, also backed Biden’s plan.
"In March 2020, we could have never fathomed that COVID-19 would have such a long-lasting and devastating impact on Long Island’s business community," Cohen said.
"Vaccines are critical to finally put this pandemic behind us, especially now that we are confronted with the delta variant. Encouraging vaccinations or requiring testing for the virus by larger employers will help ensure our region’s economic recovery, and some have implemented it already."
Medical experts also generally praised the president’s plan.
"Anything that will spur people to get vaccinated is a good idea, whether it’s in the form of a mandate, whether it’s in the form of regular testing if you don’t, whether it’s in the form of an incentive if you do, or a penalty that says your health care will cost more if you don’t," said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.
Some who oppose vaccine mandates have said the issue is a matter of personal freedom. But, Glatt said, laws and mandates that protect public health and safety are not new.
"Your freedom stops when you’re impacting other people’s freedoms and rights," he said.
People who remain unvaccinated "are going to cause COVID to spread and they’re going to help invite [vaccine-]resistant strains and variant strains to occur. That’s the problem. It’s not like you’re living in a vacuum."
Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer of Northwell Health, said Biden’s plan "made sense. We need more availability of vaccines. We need more availability of rapid, quick testing. We need protections for people who want to get vaccinated, but feel that there are others for whatever political or other reasons don't want them vaccinated."
He agreed with the focus on getting more children 12 and over vaccinated — especially since those who are younger are not yet eligible.
"The issue about children was on mark with what we've all been saying," Battinelli added. "Make sure everybody who is eligible gets the vaccine, and then you will protect those who aren't eligible to get to get vaccines."
He added: "The main message is to follow the science and stop with the politicization of this. That’s been the problem."
Glatt said one reason some resisted getting vaccinated was misinformation and widespread publicity over the relatively small number of "breakthrough cases," in which vaccinated people contracted the virus.
"The vaccines are unbelievably good at preventing serious illness, ICU admissions, intubations and death," he said. "We haven’t done a good enough job reminding everybody and showing them the statistics that unvaccinated people are 99% of the deaths in the United States right now of COVID, and hospitals are filled up with unvaccinated people."
One labor attorney said Biden's plan was helpful.
"Although I suspect there will be some challenges, I think many employers welcome the direction and will comply," said Domenique Camacho Moran, labor and employment attorney at Farrell Fritz in Uniondale.
With many employers on the Island looking at their own policies regarding vaccination and testing, the White House announcement provides guidance that is very clear, she said.
"Of course, the devil is in the details, and until we see the actual regulation from OSHA, it’s hard to know, for example, who will be required to absorb the cost of testing," Moran said. "There are many questions."
Biden’s mandate on federal employees is partly aimed at creating a model for state governments and private companies.
Michael Fricchione, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, said the county "will thoroughly review any mandates that come out of Washington and will adjust policies as legally required."
Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said, "We are in the process of reviewing the latest federal guidance."
In a statement PSEG Long Island said: "The health and safety of our employees, customers and the communities we serve is our top priority. We will review the details of the executive order to determine the implications for PSEG Long Island."
Long Island surpassed 900 daily COVID-19 cases in a post-Labor Day holiday weekend jump as the delta variant continued to spread and send virus indicators upward.
Nassau County registered 393 new cases in test results from Wednesday, while Suffolk County had 535, for a total of 928. New York City logged 1,972 new cases, state figures show.
As recently as June, Long Island was registering well under 100 new cases a day, but the delta variant, relaxed antivirus measures, and the refusal of many people to get vaccinated is sending the numbers up, medical experts say.
The seven-day average for positivity in testing for the virus inched up again on Long Island, to 4.42%, in state data released Thursday. It was as low as 0.35% on June 29. The statewide average in data released Thursday was 3.35%.
A total of 19 people in the state died on Wednesday of causes linked to the virus. The fatalities included two in Nassau and one in Suffolk.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the main solution to the crisis continues to be getting more people vaccinated.
"The vaccine works," Hochul said in a statement. "It is our strongest weapon in this fight, and millions of New Yorkers have already taken it and are better protected as a result. Getting vaccinated is not only essential to protect your own health, but the best way to protect everyone around you."
New York City is extending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, this time to workers at city-contracted child care sites such as prekindergarten and after-school facilities, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. His announcement came hours before President Joe Biden ordered all federal employees and contractors to get their shots as he toughens mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the delta variant, which continues to kill thousands of people each week across the country.The mandate in New York City is expected to cover "many thousands" of workers, de Blasio said at his daily news briefing.The employees must have at least one dose by Sept. 27 under the rule. It is the same policy, and effective date, in place for public school personnel. De Blasio said he wouldn’t yet mandate the vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds. Hochul on Wednesday said she was open to that possibility statewide, though she also said she realized some parents would be anxious about it. De Blasio also said the city would begin enforcing its indoor vaccine mandate — covering venues such as eateries and concert halls — beginning Sept. 13. To do so, New York will use 13 city agencies, including personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection, Taxi and Limousine Commission and sheriff’s office. The NYPD is not on the list. The mandate has been in place since last month but violators, such as businesses that fail to check, haven’t been fined. De Blasio also said the city would pay physicians to refer patients to get vaccinated. It’s a $35 million program, but the mayor didn’t say how much each individual payment would be.
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