Vaccine mandate for NY health care workers takes effect Monday; staff shortage possible

Coronavirus

NEW YORK — New York state’s vaccine requirement for all hospital workers and nursing home employees takes effect Monday, with enforcement set to begin just after midnight Tuesday — and Gov. Kathy Hochul said she’s ready for a possible staffing shortage.

“It is not going to be a perfect situation,” the governor said at a vaccination center in the Edenwald section of the Bronx on Monday morning, “but again, it’s preventable.”

Monday is the deadline for all New York health care workers to have at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. About 84% of hospital employees are fully vaccinated, according to state data last updated on Wednesday. (It’s believed that the number is higher as of Monday.)

Many health care workers had still not gotten a required first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, even as the deadline approached, leaving the prospect of potentially tens of thousands of health care workers being forced off the job.

New York state has about 450,000 workers in its hospitals, according to state data. Even if 90% of employees are vaccinated, that still means that potentially 40,000 to 50,000 of health care workers would not be allowed to work on Tuesday.  

The governor on Monday signed an executive order which will allow health care workers from other states and countries, as well as recent graduates and retirees, to practice in New York.

The order also allows her to deploy medically trained National Guard members as well as federal disaster assistance teams at medical facilities and nursing homes in need of extra workers.

Hochul said that she’s doing it all to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers.

“Can’t we just say that is a basic right that everyone has,” the governor said on Monday, “to know that they’ll be safe when they enter a healthcare facility? … You need to be assured that the person taking care of you is not going to give COVID to you.”

Northwell Health, the city’s largest health care system, promised that patient care will not be impacted by the vaccine mandate.

Health care workers who are fired for refusing the vaccine will reportedly not receive unemployment benefits unless they provide a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation. 

Health care workers in homecare, hospice and adult care facilities will need to receive at least their first dose of the vaccine by Oct. 7.

“We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones,” the governor previously said said in a statement. “And we need to fight with every tool at our disposal.”

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