Hospital workers protest NY-Presbyterian's COVID vaccine mandate

Healthcare workers with New York-Presbyterian Hospital held a rally outside of the hospital's location in Washington Heights on Thursday against mandatory vaccines after the hospital system announced that employees have until September 1 to get their first vaccine or lose their jobs.

"People should have the right to make their healthcare decisions in this country. That's a basic human right," said Charlie Riffaniello, a nurse.

On Wednesday, the New York City Department of Health announced that all NYC Health + Hospital employees and all clinical workers must be vaccinated or get tested weekly. Those who refuse will be suspended without pay.

The Executive Director of District Council 37, the union representing many of the workers covered by the new policy, opposes mandatory vaccines but is encouraging his members to get vaccinated.

According to the latest data from the Department of Health, 70% of all adults in the city have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 

RELATED: NYPD: Less than half of officers have gotten COVID-19 vaccine

Some critics say that is not enough to combat the highly contagious and quickly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now accounts for 69% of new cases in the city. Some critics say de Blasio is sending conflicting messages, by refusing to reinstitute a mask mandate and advertising summer concerts, while at the same time threatening to suspend healthcare workers. 

"You want freedom in your life, get vaccinated.  You want the summer of New York City, get vaccinated," de Blasio said. "Do you really want to see the world shut down again? Get vaccinated."

And, although, the number of children being hospitalized remains low, City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi says it is up to adults not to infect them.

"Kids do not have the ability to get vaccinated yet and that means that everyone around them can take a very important step to protect them by getting vaccinated themselves," Chokshi said.

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