New York State mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers

Coronavirus

NEW YORK (WWTI) — Healthcare workers in New York State are now required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all healthcare workers, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This requirement must be completed by Monday, September 27, 2021.

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According to the State Department of Health, 75% of New York’s hospital workers, 74% of the state’s adult care facility workers and 68% of the state’s nursing home workers have completed their vaccine series. Following Gov. Cuomo’s announcement, NYSDOH will soon issue Section 16 Orders, which will require all hospital , LTCF and nursing homes to develop and implement a policy which mandates employee vaccinations. This will include limited exceptions for religious or medical reasons.

“When COVID ambushed New York last year, New Yorkers acted, while the Federal Government denied the problem,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release. “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, and over 80% of recent positives in New York State are linked to the Delta variant. We must now act again to stop the spread. Our healthcare heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker added, “While we have made tremendous progress in getting New Yorkers vaccinated, this pandemic is far from over and more must be done. 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.

Dr. Thomas Russo, professor in chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo, said this mandate is necessary to protect the most vulnerable and bridge the vaccine gap.

“The majority of cases right now are occurring in the unvaccinated and every case and infection that we have is an opportunity for this virus to replicate and potentially evolve into a variant that’s of greater concern than the delta variant,” said Dr. Russo.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday the county is nearing the CDC’s “high risk of community transmission” category. He tweeted he expects the county to enter that category by this week.

The Erie County Department of Health released a statement on the requirement for healthcare workers to get vaccinated:

“Vaccinating health care workers to protect against COVID-19 will benefit the most medically vulnerable people in our state and county, especially immunocompromised individuals and children who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, and reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure in hospitals and nursing homes. Increasing the number of Erie County residents and workers who are vaccinated will contribute to a healthier county, a healthier healthcare workforce, and will give patients, nursing home and adult care facility residents, and their families piece of mind that there is an additional layer of protection in these settings.”

Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein

The New York State Nurses Association responded to the news Monday afternoon with a statement, saying:

“With the sharp increase in primarily unvaccinated patients entering hospitals around the state, we understand more must be done to keep our communities safe. In conjunction with the vaccine mandate, the Department of Health (DOH) must declare COVID-19 a public health emergency and implement the HERO Act to reduce the strain on healthcare. In addition to protecting New Yorkers through vaccination, more must be done to prepare our hospitals for another COVID surge. The DOH must take a stronger role in ensuring healthcare facilities meet health and safety protocols that fully recognize airborne transmission, and are safely staffed with enough frontline healthcare workers, especially ICU nurses. They must also ensure hospitals have adequate and accessible Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies. They should no longer be in a conservation mindset when it comes to PPE.   

“Overall, we are seeing a crisis in hospital emergency departments that indicates a general lack of preparedness. The DOH should listen to the frontline this time not just hospital CEO’s. Our healthcare workers are exhausted and traumatized. Their voices should be heard – not denied or characterized as vectors of infection- which is exactly what we are trying to avoid. When healthcare workers document what they are experiencing they must be believed. Hospitals must also ensure that new mandates do not contribute to already problematic staffing shortages. We do not want a situation where patient care is compromised because the pool of nurses and other healthcare workers continues to shrink. 

 “It is our hope that by the time this mandate is in effect, that the vaccines have gained full FDA approval.” 

The Governor’s Office confirmed that Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration was briefed prior to the announcement.

A spokesperson for Hochul sent this statement to News 4:

“The Lt. Governor supports today’s determination related to the pandemic that was recommended by the Department of Health.”

The CEO of Catholic Health released this statement:

“With new COVID cases up 1000% in the New York State and the Delta variant linked to 80% of them, Governor Cuomo has asked all healthcare heroes who led the battle throughout the pandemic to continue the fight by getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

Catholic Health will comply with today’s mandate by Governor Cuomo to have all of its hospital and long-term care associates vaccinated for COVID-19 by September 27. ‘As always, associate and patient safety is our top priority,’ said Mark Sullivan, President & CEO of Catholic Health. ‘We believe in the efficacy of the vaccine and want to do all we can to reduce the effects of COVID-19 on our healthcare team and people throughout our community.’

More than 73% of Catholic Health’s associates are already vaccinated for COVID-19. ‘We will work within the guidance of the New York State Department of Health to put a plan in place to meet this directive for the remainder of our workforce,” Sullivan continued. ‘As a leader in the vaccine rollout in Western New York, we continue to encourage all members of our community who are eligible, to receive the vaccine.’”

A spokesperson for Centers Health Care said:

“Centers Health Care will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the New York State Department of Health and the CDC regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Both leadership staff and clinical management continue to encourage the staff to get vaccinated and provide educational materials demonstrating that the positives outweigh the risks when it comes to vaccination.  It has been both a regional and national issue about healthcare workers not being vaccinated but more and more healthcare workers are being vaccinated these days and we hope this trend continues.

Two weeks ago, the company has released increased testing for those that are unvaccinated. Currently,  Centers Health Care leadership are in discussions about the new August 16 Albany mandate announcement at the moment.”

Lastly, News 4 received this statement from Elderwood:

“Elderwood, a leading provider of post-acute and senior care services, fully supports today’s announcement regarding the requirement for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with an initial dose administered by September 27, 2021.

‘Earlier this year, we were blessed with hope in the fight against COVID-19 as a number of vaccines were introduced to protect against the worst effects of the virus. Today, hope has been turned into opportunity, and soon, we anticipate victory over COVID-19,’ said Jeffrey Rubin, DMD, Co-CEO for Elderwood. ‘We are taking an important step in seizing that opportunity and securing that victory with the requirement that all healthcare workers staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.’

Elderwood has a deep respect for the personal healthcare decisions of its staff, but the company believes that the threat from highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus makes being vaccinated an imperative.

‘As a healthcare organization, we have a moral obligation, as well as our inherent commitment to excellence, that compel us to take all appropriate measures that help ensure the health and well-being of those entrusted to our care,’ Rubin said.

Since first becoming available, Elderwood has strongly encouraged its staff to receive the vaccinations and has already achieved an average74.14% vaccination rate across its senior care communities.

Additionally, Governor Cuomo also announced that the Department of Health has authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for New Yorkers with compromised immune systems. This is following the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations in the second week of August.’

Eligible New Yorkers can now receive their third dose of the vaccine 28 days after completing a two-dose series, effective immediately. This is recommended by the CDC for people who have been receiving active cancer treatment, received and organ transplant, received a stem cell transplant within the last two years, have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency, have an advanced or untreated HIV infection or are undergoing active treatments with high-dose corticosteroids.

New York State also recently mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for MTA and Port Authority employees working in New York facilities. These employees are required to be vaccinated by Labor Day. Additionally, state employees and patient-facing employees in state-run hospitals are also required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Labor Day. State employees who choose to remain unvaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID testing.

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