New York State's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at state facilities appeared to prompt thousands to get inoculated against COVID-19 by Monday, as workers were given the choice of getting the shot or potentially losing their jobs.
Workers at state-run hospitals and nursing homes had until Monday (September 27) to get their first vaccine dose, per Governor Kathy Hochul's order. Workers terminated for noncompliance will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Hochul's administration reported that vaccination rates sharply increased over the weekend, though some facilities did indeed have to terminate workers. The governor pledged to provide resources to any hospitals that experienced staffing shortages due to the mandate.
In the New York City public hospital system, more than 8,000 workers were unvaccinated last week. By Monday morning, that number had dropped to 5,000.
By Monday evening, 92 percent of nursing home staff in the state had received at least one vaccine dose — up from 84 percent a week earlier — and 92 percent of hospital staff in the state had received at least one dose.
New York-Presbyterian hospital reported that 99 percent of its 48,000 member staff had received the vaccine by its deadline. The hospital let go approximately 250 workers. Long Island-based Northwell Health reported firing about two dozen workers who refused to comply with the mandate.
"Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances, but as health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in the state, we understand our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other," a Northwell spokesperson said Tuesday. "We owe it to our staff, our patients and the communities we serve to be 100% vaccinated against COVID-19."
Eleven city hospitals in the NYC Health + Hospitals network, which runs facilities in each of the five boroughs have put employees who have yet to be vaccinated on unpaid leave. Those employees will be able to return to work once they're in compliance with the mandate. NYC Health + Hospitals said 91 percent of workers are in compliance with the mandate.
Hochul's order allows out-of-state doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to practice in New York, effectively making it easier for retirees to return to the workforce to help cover staff shortages. It also allows physician visits in nursing homes to be done via telemedicine.
Hochul's office has also asked state hospitals with near-perfect vaccination rates to consider lending employees to facilities experiencing staff shortages.
Litigation over the mandate is ongoing.
Many workers who have applied for religious exemptions were permitted to continue working until at least October 12, at which point Judge David N. Hurd will issue a ruling on the merits of one lawsuit filed by 17 medical workers who argue that Hochul's order should include a provision for religious exemptions.
New York City's vaccination mandate for Department of Education employees will now go into effect Oct. 4, since a panel of federal judges dissolved a second temporary block of the order late Monday. Until Oct. 4,