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Cuomo mandates COVID-19 vaccine for all healthcare workers

A health care worker gets vaccinated
Dan Clark
New York Now

All healthcare workers in New York state will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including those at hospitals and long-term care facilities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The deadline for those workers to receive the first dose of a vaccine will be Sept. 27, after which they won’t be allowed to work at their respective facilities.

Those required to receive the vaccine include healthcare workers and staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. Cuomo said the order is in response to rapid rise in COVID-19 cases across the state in recent weeks.

"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,” he said.

The Cuomo administration is using what are called Section 16 Orders to enforce the mandate, which was previously only applicable to employees at state-run facilities. The new requirement applies to all health care workers in New York, regardless of employer.

Section 16 of the state’s public health law essentially allows the agency to hand down emergency regulations when there’s an imminent threat to public health.

As of Monday, vaccination rates within each healthcare system were 75% of about 450,000 hospital workers, 74% of about 30,000 adult care facility workers and 68% of about 145,000 nursing home staff.

The state health department reported a 1,000% increase in positive cases over the last six weeks with 80% of the cases linked to the new delta variant. Cuomo urged all private businesses to enforce a vaccine mandate for service and encouraged school districts to mandate vaccination for teachers.

“While we have made tremendous progress in getting New Yorkers vaccinated, this pandemic is far from over and more must be done,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner.

Zucker said this mandate will help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the delta variant.

The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents various hospitals around the state, said in a statement after the mandate was announced that the group and its members would support the requirement.

"New York’s mandate will help ensure that hospitals and other health care providers can deliver the best care for patients while keeping their workers and communities safe," said Kenneth Raske, the group's president. "I support this State action."

The New York State Nurses Association, the state's largest nurses union, has encouraged its members to get vaccinated, but was previously against using mandates to make that happen without going through the bargaining process. The group didn't immediately comment on Cuomo's announcement Monday.

The Erie County Health Department issued a statement i support of the order:

“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,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “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.”

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.