MTA adopts COVID vaccine mandate for all workers: Cuomo

MTA worker wears face mask on subway

An MTA worker wears a mask on a subway train (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

NEW YORK — The MTA will require its workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly virus testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area’s major airports, will also adopt the policy, Cuomo said. It will go into effect for both agencies beginning Labor Day, according to the governor.

While the MTA is a state-run entity, its workers are not officially state employees so it was up to the transit authority to decide whether it would adopt the mandatory vaccine or weekly COVID testing policy Cuomo announced for state workers last week.

“We put this in place, it’s controversial … but it’s necessary,” Cuomo said of the vaccine mandate.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said in a statement Monday that the organization supports the MTA’s vaccination policy.

“We strongly believe everyone should get vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Anyone who has concerns, should ask their doctor for advice. We will continue to urge members to get the shot and will work with the MTA to ensure testing options are widely available at work sites,” Utano said.

The governor also urged schools and private businesses in areas with substantial increases in COVID cases to implement a vaccine or weekly testing policy for all employees.

Additionally, local governments should adopt the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidance since the state can no longer issue that mandate without passing a law, Cuomo said.

The announcements came as New York continues to see a concerning spike in COVID cases linked to the highly transmissible delta variant. The rise in cases is happening at a faster and steadier pace now than it did last fall, before anyone was vaccinated.

An average of nearly 2,300 people have been testing positive for COVID-19 daily across New York state over the past week, up from around 300 new cases per day in late June.

On Monday, the state Health Department reported 2,143 new COVID cases, a one-day positivity rate of 2.96% and seven-day average of 2.53%.

Staten Island had the second highest seven-day positivity rate of all regions in the state at 3.37%. New York City’s overall seven-day average was 2.36%, according to state Health Department data.

Cuomo said because of the delta variant, statewide hospitalizations “basically doubled” and there has been a “four-fold increase” in the number of cases.

“If you are unvaccinated, the delta variant should be a major concern to you,” the governor said.

He also warned that if delta mutates, it could become a strain that is resistant to the vaccine.

As of Monday, about 57% of eligible New Yorkers were fully vaccinated, with vaccination rates lowest in rural counties as well as in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Just over 75% of adults in New York have received at least one shot but 24.5% were still unvaccinated, leaving millions of New Yorkers vulnerable to the delta variant.

While vaccinated individuals may be able to spread COVID-19 if they become a “breakthrough” case, the CDC has said they are still far less susceptible to severe illness and death.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.

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