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All New York health care workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19, Cuomo says

All health care workers in New York will

All health care workers in New York will need to be vaccinated by Sept. 27. Credit: AFP / Kena Betancur via Getty Images

All health care workers in the state must receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday.

The order includes those employed at New York hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as well as "adult care and other congregate care settings." There will be limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons, Cuomo said in a statement.

The state said about 75% of hospital workers and 74% of workers in adult care facilities in New York are fully vaccinated. Only 68% of nursing home workers are fully vaccinated.

"Now, the delta variant is spreading across the nation and across New York — new daily positives are up over 1000% over the last six weeks," Cuomo said in a statement. "And over 80 percent of recent positives in New York State are linked to the delta variant. We must now act again to stop the spread."

The announcement comes as New York City is poised on Tuesday to enact its own mandate for people 12 and over to show proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 to participate in various indoor activities including dining and concerts.

And late Monday, The Associated Press reported that U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot.

What to know

  • All health care workers in the state must receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was necessary because previous recommendations had not worked in boosting inoculations.
  • The incoming gubernatorial administration of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was briefed on the new health care worker vaccine mandate.

The state Department of Health will issue orders requiring all hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes to "develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations," according to the announcement.

It didn't specify what would happen to health care workers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

"We are working to finalize the details and more information will be forthcoming," Jill Montag, director of communications for the state Department of Health, said in an email responding to a question from Newsday.

In recent weeks, Cuomo has mandated that Port Authority and MTA employees working in New York get the vaccine by Labor Day. State workers also must be vaccinated by Labor Day or submit to weekly testing.

After Monday's announcement, weekly testing is not an option for health care workers at the state-run hospitals, such as Stony Brook.

Cuomo said the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was necessary because previous recommendations had not worked in boosting inoculations.

"I have strongly urged private businesses to implement vaccinated-only admission policies, and school districts to mandate vaccinations for teachers," Cuomo said. "Neither will occur without the state legally mandating the actions — private 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."

In New York City, all municipal employees — including school teachers — must be vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests. While Cuomo has encouraged school districts around the state to come up with plans to ask teachers to get vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19, there is no current requirement. And the latest COVID-19 guidance from the state Education Department does not discuss vaccinations for staff.

New York State United Teachers has said it does not support any COVID-19 vaccination mandates for teachers.

The incoming gubernatorial administration of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was briefed on the new healthcare worker vaccine mandate, a news release from Cuomo's office said.

Cuomo also said the state Health Department — acting on a recommendation made last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with compromised immune systems.

The latest state figures show 69.9% of the population in New York over the age of 18 is fully vaccinated and 77.6% of people over the age of 18 have received at least one dose. In Suffolk County, 77.8% of the population over the age of 18 has received at least one dose, and in Nassau County 84.9% of people over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

There were 3,575 new cases of COVID-19 in the state on Sunday based on 99,005 test results received, officials said, for a daily positivity rate of 3.61%. Nassau County accounted for 347 of the new cases, and there were 476 in Suffolk County.

As of Sunday, 1,722 people were hospitalized throughout the state with COVID-19, including 217 who were newly admitted.

The Greater New York Hospital Association spoke out in favor of the mandate on Monday.

"This is a critical moment requiring bold action," Kenneth E. Raske, president of the association, said in a statement. "The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York State has increased nearly 400% in the last month, and 28% in just the past week."

Several hospital systems, such as Northwell Health and Mount Sinai, already have enacted policies requiring staffers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, NYU Langone Health said it would "be in full compliance with the governor's directive." Officials there said 83% of staff is totally vaccinated.

The health system previously had said it would make the vaccination mandatory once it receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine is currently available through an emergency use authorization from the agency.

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 front-line nurses, released a statement saying hospitals should make sure the new mandates do not contribute to staffing shortages.

"With the sharp increase in primarily unvaccinated patients entering hospitals around the state, we understand more must be done to keep our communities safe," the union said in a statement. "It is our hope that by the time this mandate is in effect, that the vaccines have gained full FDA approval."

Stuart Almer, president and CEO of Gurwin Healthcare System, which includes the Gurwin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Commack, said the mandate is "good news for the industry."

"We offer vaccinations in house and we are at 70% in the nursing home," he said, noting that percentage is higher than in many other similar facilities.

Almer said it is important that nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities are being held to the same standard, in terms of the vaccine mandate.

He pointed out Gurwin's previous requirement that staffers get vaccinated for the flu was successful but admitted mandating the COVID-19 vaccine is different.

"If [staff] makes the decision not to get the shot and they leave us, that will be tough because staffing is a challenge for us and everyone else," he said.

Starting Tuesday, New York City will start its program of requiring vaccinations for people 12 and older to participant in many indoor activities — from dining at a restaurant to working out in a gym or going to a concert or museum. People will have to show proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination to participate.

With Yancey Roy

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