New York, like other states, has seen a rising number of coronavirus cases linked to the delta variant: New infections have climbed 150% and hospitalizations have jumped 69% over the past two weeks. “What we’re seeing is a pandemic among those unvaccinated people, but it affects everyone,” Cuomo said.
“It’s smart, it’s fair and it’s in everyone’s interest,” Cuomo said in a Zoom call with the nonprofit Association for a Better New York. In mandating either the shots, or frequent testing for government workers, Cuomo is following on the heels of California and New York City, which announced similar policies for employees earlier this week. The governor called on local governments across New York to follow suit. Cuomo said COVID-19 vaccines would be mandatory for “patient-facing” workers at state-owned hospitals and veterans homes. Those employees would not be able to avoid inoculations by undergoing weekly virus testing. The state runs large hospitals in Syracuse and New York City and on Long Island.
New York is the first state to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for state-run hospital workers without allowing them to opt out with testing. New York state regulations already require hospital workers to be vaccinated against measles and rubella.
The Cuomo administration said about 130,000 state employees would be affected. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to questions about who will pay for testing for unvaccinated workers and potential penalties for unwilling workers. The Democrat said his administration still needed to speak with union officials about how to implement the policy. Some unions representing government workers in New York City have objected to the city’s “get vaccinated or get tested” mandate set to take effect in mid-September. CSEA President Mary Sullivan, whose union represents New York state and local government workers, said it supports Cuomo’s vaccination policy: ”(W)e cannot slide backwards now or we put our members, workers, our families, children and all of us at greater risk.”
Meanwhile, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association President Michael Powers said it’s “disheartening” the state did not seek input from workers. “Just a month ago, the state celebrated the lifting of restrictions with fireworks shows and now today’s about-face,” Powers said. New York’s court system said it plans to require unvaccinated judges and court employees to undergo regular testing, court officials said Wednesday.
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