COVID vaccines mandated for all NY health workers

Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS LPN Kimberly Peacock, left, administers the COVID-19 Vaccine shot to Dr. Guy Hewlett, M.D., right, at Cooper University Health Care on Dec. 15, 2020. Cooper University Health Care was among the first group of hospitals in New Jersey to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

ALBANY — All New York health care workers, including hospital and long-term care facility staff, must be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next six weeks, state officials announced Monday.

The state Health Department is set to issue an order Monday to require all hospitals, long-term care, nursing homes and other congregate care facilities to develop and implement a policy mandating all employees be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by Sept. 27, with limited religious and medical exceptions.

“While we have made tremendous progress in getting New Yorkers vaccinated, this pandemic is far from over and more must be done,” Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a prepared statement. “The data and science tell us that getting more people vaccinated as quickly as possible is the best way to keep people safe, prevent further mutations, and enable us to resume our daily routines. This mandate will both help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the delta variant. I want to thank all New York state’s health care workers for stepping up once again and showing our state that getting vaccinated is safe, easy and most importantly, effective.”

About 75% of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, 74% of its approximately 30,000 workers in adult-care facilities and 68% of New York’s 145,000 nursing home employees have completed their COVID vaccine series, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Monday.

Cuomo’s aides briefed Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will become governor of the state Aug. 24, and her administration on the new vaccine requirement Monday.

“When COVID ambushed New York last year, New Yorkers acted while the federal government denied the problem,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday.

The more transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 that originated in India is spreading across the state and nation. New daily positive infections in New York are up more than 1,000% over the last six weeks with more than 80% of recent positives in the state linked to the delta strain, the governor said.

“We must now act again to stop the spread,” Cuomo said. “Our health care heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine. 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.”

Monday’s announcement follows Cuomo’s announcement July 28 that all state employees and patient-facing workers in state-run hospitals must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the Labor Day holiday, Sept. 6.

State employees who choose to remain unvaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID testing.

Monday’s announcement did not include details about a testing option to forgo the mandated inoculation.

Cuomo has urged local governments, municipalities and private businesses to implement COVID vaccine mandates, encouraging local establishments to admit only vaccinated patrons.

The governor continued to encourage the required vaccination policies across the state, including in all school districts and a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers Monday.

“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.”

The Department of Health authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for New Yorkers with compromised immune systems, following last week’s recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that moderate to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose. Eligible New Yorkers can receive their third dose 28 days after the completion of their two-dose vaccine series, effective immediately.

New Yorkers eligible for a third COVID vaccine dose include people receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood, people who received an organ transplant or received a stem cell transplant within the last two years and take medication to suppress the immune system; have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiencies such as DiGeorge or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome; have advanced or untreated HIV/AIDS; have an active treatment high-dose corticosteroids, cancer chemotherapy that causes sever immunosuppression or other medications that may suppress your immune response.

Contact your doctor or health provider to determine if getting a third COVID vaccine dose is the right decision for you.

Check back for more details on this developing story.

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