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State mandates health care workers, nursing home staffers be vaccinated

All health care workers in New York, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, Sept. 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The State Department of Health will issue an order requiring all hospitals and facilities such as nursing homes to develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations. Limited exceptions will be allowed for those with religious or medical reasons.

About 75% of the state’s 450,000 hospital workers have completed the vaccine series, according to the governor. About 74% of the 30,000 adult care facility workers and 68% of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers have also completed the vaccine series.

The outgoing governor, who announced his resignation last Tuesday following a scathing New York Attorney General report into sexual harassment allegations, said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration was briefed prior to the announcement. Mr. Cuomo said Aug. 10 he will leave office in 14 days and Ms. Hochul will become governor.

Mr. Cuomo said over 80% of recent positive cases in New York are linked to the Delta variant, which has been the driving force behind the uptick in cases. “We must now act again to stop the spread,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Our health care heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker added: “This mandate will both help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the Delta variant. I want to thank all New York State’s health care workers for stepping up once again and showing our state that getting vaccinated is safe, easy, and most importantly, effective.”

The governor has urged private businesses to implement vaccinated-only admission policies and for school districts to mandate vaccinations for teachers. “Neither will occur without the state legally mandating the actions — private businesses will not enforce a vaccine mandate unless it’s the law, and local school districts will be hesitant to make these challenging decisions without legal direction,” he said.

The governor also announced the Department of Health has authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for New Yorkers with compromised immune systems following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. Eligible residents can receive the third dose 28 days after the completion of their two-dose vaccine series, effective immediately.

The CDC recommendations for a third dose include people who have:

• Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood

• Received an organ transplant and are taking medications to suppress the immune system

• Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years

• Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency

• Advanced or untreated HIV infection

• Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids, cancer chemotherapy that causes sever immunosuppression, or other medications that may suppress your immune response.

Any resident considering a third dose should contact their health care provider to discuss whether the additional dose is appropriate.