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Mandate shots to fight COVID

LI and the state should match new mandates

LI and the state should match new mandates with more vaccine drives. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Kena Betancur

The decision by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to require state workers to get vaccinated, or face regular testing, is an enormously important step in the fight against the pandemic — one that Long Island officials at all levels should replicate.

And Cuomo's move to require public-facing state hospital workers to get the shot — without the testing option — is also critical. It should filter down to private institutions, nursing homes and home health care aides. President Joe Biden is expected to announce federal workers have to get the shot or submit to testing, too.

This is a key moment. We're in a battle against the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the increasing presence of the delta strain. The vaccine remains the best tool to fight the virus. But the nation, state and region need to move quickly.

Cuomo's initial policy applies only to state workers, although the Assembly then followed suit for its members. The policy should be broadened to include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 70,000 employees. Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Long Island's school districts, libraries and other public entities should institute similar mandates, though they may need to be stricter if the vaccine-or-test effort doesn't do the trick. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday the county is trying to "determine the best way forward." She needs to act with more urgency. Too many residents have pushed back against the vaccine without good reason. The region must make it harder to say "no."

While we're not at the point where private businesses are requiring vaccination, the Justice Department opened that door, too, saying federal law doesn't prevent a public agency or private business from requiring employee vaccinations.

The best effort might include both requirements and incentives. New York City announced Wednesday that city residents and employees who get shots at city sites will receive $100. Chicago and Colorado are offering gift cards. The incentive of saving lives should be enough, but if perks make the difference for uncertain residents, they're welcome, too.

While it's too early to see the result of these moves, the spotlight on the delta strain, uptick in cases and attention to vaccination may be having an impact. White House officials reported Wednesday the nation saw the highest one-day increase in newly vaccinated individuals — 498,000 — in nearly a month. Locally, too, officials say they're starting to see a pickup.

That momentum must continue. State and local officials should match new mandates with additional vaccine drives, bringing them into communities like the low-vaccinated ones Cuomo is targeting, and to favorite summer spots like baseball stadiums and parks, summer school locations and more. Make it easy, accessible, necessary.

We are at a turning point — but the future remains unclear. The state's actions, and similar local decision making, could help put the region on the right path.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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