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New York State Hospital Workers Must Get Vaccinated, No Testing Option, Cuomo Says; State Reviewing New CDC Mask Guidance

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced New York is requiring all state employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Labor Day or undergo weekly testing.

Cuomo said they're working with the unions to implement the policy, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported.

It comes on the heels of New York City announcing a similar policy this week and as President Biden is expected enact one for federal employees.

The mayor of Yonkers announced Wednesday that city and school district employees must provide proof of vaccination or undergo testing.

New York has seen a rise in cases linked to the Delta variant. New infections have climbed more than 400% since the end of June.

While it's get vaccinated or do weekly tests for all state workers, getting the shot is mandatory for frontline workers at state-owned hospitals in New York.

"All patient-facing health care workers must get vaccinated. There will be no testing option for patient-facing healthcare workers," Cuomo said.


In New York, nearly 75% of adults have received at least one dose.

That number is 71% in New York City, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. But there are certain zip codes with low vaccination rates and high positivity rates.

"Primarily in New York City, up 60%, which is not surprising," Cuomo said. "You also see it on Long Island."

The state and city have tried all kinds of incentive programs to overcome vaccine hesitancy. In the latest, New York City will give out a pre-paid debit card starting Friday.

"One hundred dollars for any New Yorker who goes to a city-run site to get vaccinated," said de Blasio.

Watch: NYC Offering $100 Incentive For People To Get Vaccinated --

The CDC recommends putting the mask back on indoors, even for the vaccinated, where COVID is surging due to the Delta variant. That includes New York City and Long Island.

"If you are vaccinated and you are one of those rare, breakthrough infections, you actually have the capacity to pass it to somebody else and that is new. That was not what we had seen with Alpha or with previous variants," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

"We are continuing to see respiratory distress, the need to provide people with ventilators and deaths among the unvaccinated," said Dr. Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals president and CEO.

Cuomo said the state is doing a full review of the mask guidance with national and international experts.

"Local governments in those areas should seriously consider the CDC guidance," he said.

"It is complicated information. So, our health team is reviewing it and we'll have more to say about it in the next few days," de Blasio said.

Staten Island has one of the lowest vaccination rates and highest COVID positive rates in the area.

Heading into a health store on Hyland Boulevard, Jamie Booth and his wife told CBS2's Jessica Layton they came down with COVID.

"It was horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible," Booth's wife said.

Watch Alice Gainer's report --

On Staten Island, the CDC is recommending everyone wear masks indoors again because too many unvaccinated people are spreading the virus.

"That's the part that's messed up because I got vaccinated so I didn't have to wear a mask," Booth said.

"If we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated ... if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks," Walensky said.

It's a mask memo many have missed or are ignoring completely.

"So if you're not vaccinated, why aren't you wearing your mask to go in a store?" Layton asked John Assad, of Staten Island.

"I was gonna ask them for a mask because I didn't have a mask in my car," he said.

New York City Councilman Mark Levine has been pushing for indoor masking.

"There's really no excuse for further delay. We have all the data we need. We have the guidance from the CDC," Levine said.

Levine is the chair of the Council's Health Committee, and Democratic nominee for Manhattan borough president. He has been pushing for the reinstatement of the mask mandate for weeks.

"We are seeing about a thousand new cases a day and so this is real and it's a highly contagious form of this virus," Levine said.

At Staten Island University Hospital, they're admitted more and more patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Dr. Ted Strange, chairman of medicine at the hospital, says the vast majority skipped the vaccine.

"The city had a parade. The state did fireworks. Did we celebrate the end of COVID too early?" Layton asked.

"We absolutely did. We absolutely did because if everybody would have gotten vaccinated, we would be in a very different place today because the virus would have not gotten into those people unvaccinated and mutated. And by the way, there's more mutations to come," Strange said.

Fully vaccinated New Yorkers told CBS2's John Dias they are mostly for the mask mandate.

"There's going to be people who are slower coming to the cause," said Upper West Side resident Tom Barr.

"People can lie about anything, and you just don't know, so be safe, wear a mask," said Far Rockaway resident Sean Perry.

"I think we are all in this together," said Upper East Side resident Margaret Tobin.

In the meantime, Twitter has decided to close its recently reopened New York offices.


The new guidance is a reversal from two months ago, when the CDC said masks weren't needed for the vaccinated anymore.

"The virus has changed. What happened is we were dealing predominately with the Alpha variant," said Dr. Anthony Fauci. "The Delta variant is more transmissible than the Alpha variant."

The country is averaging more than 57,000 new cases a day. Most continue to be among unvaccinated people: 97%.

"So there is no doubt that the reason that we have so much disease right now is because it has gone after those who are unprotected," Fauci said.

Officials and health experts continue to say vaccines are the key.

CBS2's John Dias and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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