NEW YORK - Hospital and nursing home workers in New York state will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in the state’s latest push to increase inoculation rates to fight a wave of coronavirus cases powered by the highly infectious delta variant.
The new policy expands a requirement that previously applied to staffers who work directly with patients at state-owned hospitals and veterans homes.
It follows vaccination requirements for health care workers in California, members of the U.S. military, and patient care staffers in the federal Health and Human Services Department and Department of Veterans Affairs. Some private businesses, from Google to United Airlines, also have ordered employees to get the shot.
"Our healthcare heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine," said Cuomo, a Democrat who is leaving office later this month after resigning over sexual harassment allegations, which he denies.
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Amid a national virus surge, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New York has risen over the past two weeks from over 2,400 new cases per day to nearly 4,200, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
"When COVID ambushed New York last year, New Yorkers acted, while the Federal Government denied the problem," said Cuomo. "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 percent of recent positives in New York State are linked to the Delta variant. We must now act again to stop the spread.
About 75% of the roughly 450,000 hospital workers statewide, 68% of the 145,500 nursing home workers and 74% of the 30,000 other adult care facility workers are fully vaccinated, Cuomo’s office said in a release. That compares to about 58% of all New Yorkers, and 70% of those 18 and older.
Under the new policy, health workers will have to get at least a first dose of vaccine by Sept. 27, with what the state called "limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons."
Meanwhile, New York City is set Tuesday to begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life — dining indoors at restaurants, working out at a gym, visiting a stadium or strolling through a museum.
The list of public venues widened Monday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio moved forward with an unprecedented move by the country's most populous city.
While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won't begin until Sept. 13 — to give the public more time to get vaccinated or be shut out from many of the public venues that had only recently begun to reopen after being shut down for many months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’re going to get out there and educate people, and we’re going to remind people that we really want people to take this seriously," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a virtual press conference Monday.
"Just buy into this because it’s going to work for all of us, is going to make us all safer," the Democrat said.
De Blasio first announced the new initiative Aug. 3.
City officials promised training for businesses on how to de-escalate possible confrontations between patrons and their staff who will be on the frontlines for enforcing the new rules.
As of Monday, the city reported that 5.2 million of the city's 8.8 million residents have had at least one shot of a vaccine, with 4.7 million fully vaccinated.
New York City averaged 2,000 new cases of coronavirus per day over the past seven days, a number that has been steadily increasing since falling to around 200 per day in late June.
Other cities, including San Francisco, followed New York's move in taking more aggressive measures against the pandemic.
The requirement is meant to goad more people to get vaccinated in order to take part in daily public life. It remains to be seen whether that strategy will work.
Tourists and other visitors would also have to comply with the requirement by showing their vaccination card or other documentation.
De Blasio warned against falsifying vaccination cards — which he called "sacred" documents. Doing so could be met with severe penalties. Restaurants and other establishments that don’t comply could be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense, and could escalate.
In addition to patrons, employees at restaurants, gyms, and indoor performance venues will also have to be vaccinated.
With the Associated Press