Source: The New York Times
New York’s mandate for health care workers to be vaccinated against the deadly COVID-19 is already in full swing.
It can be recalled that over a month ago, amid the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a directive that would require these essential workers to be vaccinated with at least their first shot by September 27, the first of its kind in the country.
In the announcement, he said, “We have always followed the science, and we’re doing so again today, with these recommendations by Dr. Zucker and federal and state health experts. But we need to do more. I have strongly urged private businesses to implement vaccinated-only admission policies and school districts to mandate vaccinations for teachers. 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.”
Among those included in the initiative are individuals working in hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, chronic care, and developmental disability facilities. Employees who fail to comply with the order may face unpaid suspension or, worse, termination. A few facilities have already fired unvaccinated personnel, while some give their staff up to 30 days to secure the shot.
Initially, the directive had been met with resistance, and numerous groups have voiced their disagreement. However, in the days leading to the full enforcement of the mandate, several health care workers were scrambling to get vaccinated, as evidenced by the significant leap in the state’s vaccination rate by as much as 10%. Out of 650,000 hospital staff and LTCF workers, 92% have already received their first jab as of Monday night, thus making New York part of the states with the most vaccinated health care workers in the entire country.
Following the success of the directive, incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul has echoed the sentiments of her predecessor and stated, “This new information shows that holding firm on the vaccine mandate for health care workers is simply the right thing to do to protect our vulnerable family members and loved ones from COVID-19.”
The considerable increase in the vaccination rate in the state is an excellent benchmark for President Joe Biden’s similar mandate for federal employees and health care workers nationwide. Several other states have also followed New York’s footsteps and are implementing their own vaccination mandates.
Despite the compliance of the majority of health care workers in New York, there are still those who refuse to get inoculated and would rather resign from their post. The decision to enforce vaccination for health care workers is still heavily questioned and met with criticism. In addition, parties opposed to the mandate have filed a few lawsuits and organized protests to show their dissent. As a result, hospitals and long-term care facilities are preparing for the worst-case scenario of being understaffed.
It remains unclear what the future of healthcare workers would look like, but for now, it seems that the vaccination mandate in New York will not be lifted anytime soon.
Opinions expressed by NY Weekly contributors are their own.