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NY expands its vaccine mandate, as hospice workers face Thursday deadline

Gov. Kathy Hochul, wearing a blue dress, stands at a podium and microphone with COVID statistics on a monitor behind her.
Mike Groll
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul holds a COVID-19 briefing in the Red Room at the State Capitol.

Hospice and home healthcare workers in New York have to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday or face termination. The state's vaccination requirement is also now expanded to workers at mental health facilities. Their deadline is November.

Unvaccinated workers at mental health facilities will have to get weekly COVID testing starting Oct. 12. That testing option will be eliminated when the state vaccination deadline passes in November.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said those without at least one dose of the vaccine could get fired.

"We feel confident that this is the approach that has worked. Give people enough notice, they can be fully compliant,” Hochul said. “At the end of the day they will not go into a hospital or a nursing home in their most vulnerable state."

Hochul said this will protect patients who are at their worst.

"They're not healthy, they're not well, and they will not be exposed to someone who's supposed to take care of them, who then gives them the virus," Hochul said.

A union representing 32,000 home healthcare workers in New York wants the state to give its members more time to meet the Thursday vaccination deadline. More than 90% of Home Health Care Workers of America members are immigrant women of color. Even though they are among the most vaccine hesitant, 70% are already vaccinated.

The vaccine mandate covers home health, adult care and hospice employees. They will join hospital and nursing home workers that are already required to get the shot or face termination.

As the mandate went into effect, hospitals and nursing homes saw their vaccination rates improve, with more than 92% of workers having received at least one dose of the vaccine as of last week.

This week, the state's largest private employer and healthcare provider, Northwell Health on Long Island, fired 1,400 unvaccinated employees — 2% of its workforce.

A Northwell spokesperson said the company regrets losing any employee, but as healthcare providers, the company owes it to the community to have a fully vaccinated workforce. Immunization rates are now up to 100% at the 23 Northwell hospitals and hundreds of outpatient clinics.