As New York prepares to enforce its COVID-19 vaccination deadline on Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul said a state emergency declaration and other options, including calling in health care workers from the National Guard, are on the table to address any potential hospital staffing shortages.
"I am monitoring the staffing situation closely and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities," Hochul said in a statement. "I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care."
Hochul's preparation plan includes signing an executive order to declare a state of emergency to increase staff and to allow licensed health care professionals from other places to work in New York. The plan also includes the potential deployment of medically-trained National Guard members, and the opportunity to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.
Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in August announced that all healthcare workers must receive at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 27. The regulation, issued by the New York Department of Health, also applies to out of state and contract medical staff who practice within New York.
Those who are fired because of their refusal to get vaccinated won't be able to receive unemployment insurance without a valid medical accommodation from a doctor, according to the Department of Labor.
"This mandate will both help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the Delta variant," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement at the time of the requirement's announcement.
The Civil Service Employees Association, members of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association and a group of medical workers are among those who have filed lawsuits challenging the state's vaccine mandates.
"CSEA is supportive of efforts to keep our state workplaces safer, but these changes must respect the legal bargaining rights of workers," communications director for the Civil Service Employees Association Mark Kotzin said in a statement.
Hochul stood by the impending vaccine deadline, saying that "we will be replacing people" who refuse to get vaccinated," according to CBS affiliate WRGB-TV. "People who will not get vaccinated are the only reason that this country and these communities and our cities have not been able to be fully engaged in a state of normalcy," she said Wednesday.
Many healthcare workers are already completely vaccinated. As of September 22, 84% of all hospital employees in New York were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Hochul's office. For adult care facilities, 81% of staff were completely vaccinated, along with 77% of staff at nursing home facilities.
"I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care," the governor said.
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