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Facing Vaccine Mandate Deadline, Home Health Care Workers Union Hoping New York State Grants More Time

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Tens of thousands of home health care workers could lose their jobs Friday, if they don't get at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of Thursday.

As CBS2's Jessica Moore reported, the deadline is creating a potential hardship for families, and a push for more time to comply.

Stroke survivor Cindy Yip relies on her home health aide 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

"She's a high-fall risk and she has memory issues," said Kai Yu, Yip's son.

READ MOREICU Nurse Sandra Lindsay Receives Pfizer's COVID-19 Booster Shot, As Health Care Professionals Grapple With The Mandate

He said the new vaccine mandate and impending worker shortage has him stressed beyond belief.

"If the aide doesn't show up, who's going to fill in that gap? That means I have to rush over and drop everything, get over there, and figure out how to watch her during that period of time," Yu said.


As of Thursday, New York's roughly 250,000 home health care workers are required to have at least one dose of the vaccine, or lose their jobs.

Tens of thousands have yet to comply, leaving a looming shortage in a chronically understaffed industry.

"I don't know what to tell you. It's going to be a disaster, is what's going to happen, because people will call out. Even if agencies are cobbling together for now to cover their current staff members, their current cases, what happens when the aide's family gets sick or there's a death in the family and they have to fly home?" said Debbie Drelich of New York Elder Care Services.

READ MOREJudge Denies Temporary Restraining Order Against COVID Vaccine Mandate At NYC Schools

Union chief Joe Pecora, who represents 32,000 home health care workers in and around New York City, is sounding the alarm, saying even with an 85% vaccination rate among his members, Friday is going to be ugly.

When asked what kind of fallout he is anticipating, Pecora said, "We anticipate thousands of New Yorkers will be without their aides due to people not being vaccinated. Even 1% of the home health care workforce out means thousands of patients will go without care."


Pecora said many aides didn't know about the mandate until recently, and with an annual turnover rate of roughly 20%, thousands of workers who got vaccinated last year don't even work in the field anymore.

"It's how hard the work is and the compensation that they receive from the state. The people are just leaving to go to other industries -- retail, any commercial, fast food," Pecora said. "We need better compensation and we need more time to meet this mandate, and we're not asking for another year. We're asking until the end of the month."

READ MOREMayor De Blasio Mulling Expanding COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate To Include Members Of NYPD, FDNY, Department Of Correction

For now, Gov. Kathy Hochul is standing by Thursday's deadline, saying her goal is protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers from COVID-19.

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