NEW YORK — New York City will require workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics to either get vaccinated or get tested weekly, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The COVID-19 safety requirement for health workers goes into effect beginning Aug. 2.
De Blasio’s order announced Wednesday comes as concerns grow over the delta variant, which has become the dominant strain of the virus.
“It’s time to do something different,” de Blasio said during an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “What we’re doing is mandate for the folks who work in our public hospitals and clinics, they need to be safe, the people they serve need to be safe. So, we’re saying, get vaccinated, or get tested once every week.”
The mayor called the mandate a fair choice, adding that it would likely compel more people to get vaccinated.
Those who refuse to get vaccinated or get weekly test will be suspended without pay, according to the mayor.
People can get vaccinated after the Aug. 2 start date of the order, the mayor added.
“The simple fact is if you’re vaccinated, virtually every activity is safer,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. “Vaccination has been and continues to be the single-most important precaution we can take to interact with the public and our colleagues.”
The order will cover the roughly 42,000 people who work in the city’s public hospital system, which includes 11 hospitals as well as nursing homes and clinics. The policy also will cover some employees of the city’s Health Department.
Currently there are about 60% of Health and Hospital employees are vaccinated, according to H+H CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz.
The mandate will not apply to teachers, police officers and other city employees, but it dovetails into the city’s intense focus on vaccinations amid an increase in delta variant infections, according to de Blasio.
When asked why there isn’t a larger push for more city workers to get vaccinated, the mayor said it makes sense to start at hospitals and health facilities then move forward from there.
As of Wednesday morning, 9,773,399 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, and about 58% of the city’s population are fully vaccinated, according to the mayor.
It’s another example of institutions requiring vaccinations in an effort to both increase stalling numbers of people acquiring protection against the coronavirus, as well as to ensure that institutions can operate safely.
In New Jersey, Kean University is among a variety of colleges and universities requiring students to provide proof of vaccination. While most colleges require it before classes begin, Kean’s date is Aug. 1, a full month before the first classes.
Without vaccination proof, said Karen Smith, vice president of university relations, students “will be deregistered from their classes.”
“We want our students to understand,” Smith continued, “that if they submit that record, they’re going to be able to come to campus and it’s going to be a little bit closer to what they’re used to.”
The moves are in response to COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise over the last few weeks, although the numbers are not nearly as high as they were last winter.