2021-09-27 19:10:21 N.Y.’s Covid Vaccine Mandate Tested by Pushback From Workers

N.Y.’s Covid Vaccine Mandate Tested by Pushback From Workers

Tens of thousands of health-care workers in New York appeared to be jeopardizing their jobs by refusing to comply with a state mandate to receive a dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday, setting the stage for similar employer mandates across the country.

As President Biden pushes for everyone working in a health care setting to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Gov. Kathy C. Hochul’s success in enforcing the mandate could influence how other states proceed.

Health care workers in New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon, and the District of Columbia are required to be vaccinated in order to continue working. Workers in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois have the option of being tested on a regular basis if they do not wish to be immunized.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that he hoped health care workers in New York City would agree to get vaccinated this week in order to keep their jobs. His administration stated that approximately 5,000 employees at the city’s public hospital system — roughly 10% of the workforce — had not been vaccinated and were unable to report to work or be paid.

On Monday, health officials in New York City stated that they had not heard of any major staff shortages at public or private hospitals. Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, stated that some hospitals may need to make operational changes in intensive care units or operating rooms.

“I believe hospitals will be prepared to get through this without a significant impact on patient care,” Dr. Chokshi said at a press conference Monday morning.

Most states have refrained from threatening to fire unvaccinated workers, despite the fact that employers (or state governments acting as employers) are legally permitted to require workers to be vaccinated, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At least two lawsuits have been filed in response to New York’s mandate and the state’s refusal to allow religious exemptions. A federal appeals court delayed a vaccine mandate for the more than 150,000 adults who work in New York City’s public schools on Friday.

Many New York City health-care workers have resisted the order because they are concerned about potential vaccine side effects, or they have challenged it because they believe it violates their personal freedom. Covid vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections, severe illness, and death, with minor and short-term side effects.

Officials in New York are bracing for possible staffing disruptions in health-care facilities. Ms. Hochul said on Friday that she might declare a state of emergency and deploy National Guard troops, or even recruit temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland, if unvaccinated health care workers are needed to replace them.

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Ms. Hochul reiterated on Monday that the state was ready to work with hospitals to address any staff shortages, and she repeatedly referred to potential shortages as “preventable.”

“It’s not a role I look forward to,” Ms. Hochul said of enforcing the state mandate. “However, I am well aware that some people will not return to their jobs.”

Ms. Hochul stated that she had heard anecdotally from medical practitioners and hospital systems that some facilities, particularly those in the downstate region, saw an increase in the number of health care workers getting vaccinated on Monday. However, she stated that there would be some delay in compiling updated statewide figures.

Ms. Hochul, who has stated her intention to run for a full term as governor in 2022, thanked workers who had already gotten vaccinated on Monday and pleaded with holdouts to do the same.

“To those who haven’t made that decision yet, please do the right thing,” she said at a news conference in the Bronx. “We have a lot of resources. Many of your employers are eager to simply jab you in the arm and say you’re part of the family. We need your assistance to keep going.”

Ms. Hochul, who has been in office for just over a month after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, faced her first crisis earlier this month when Hurricane Ida’s downpours killed at least 15 people in New York. Her next major test will most likely be opposition to the vaccine mandate.

On Monday, public health workers in New York City who refused to be vaccinated were not fired. Officials from the city said they hoped workers would be vaccinated and able to return to work this week.

Mr. de Blasio stated on Monday that he believes his vaccine mandate for school employees will be upheld in court. He claimed that 90 percent of the city’s teachers had already been immunized.

“We are very, very confident that the city will prevail,” said Mr. de Blasio.

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N.Y.'s Covid Vaccine Mandate Tested by Pushback From Workers