Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday raised the possibility of implementing COVID-19 vaccination mandates for nursing home workers and teachers if a recent increase in cases in New York City does not improve as the variant Delta is spreading.
âIf the numbers don’t come down, I think you need to consider mandatory vaccines for nursing home workers,â Cuomo said at a press conference from that Manhattan office. âRetirement homes are [a] high risk population.
The vaccination rate among nursing home staff is nearly 20% lower than the residents they care for, as 87% of residents have been partially or fully vaccinated, compared to 68% of workers.
If COVID-19 cases do not fall, Cuomo has also left the door open for teachers on vaccination warrants.
“Mandatory vaccinations for teachers, if the numbers increase,” he said.
In the immediate term, local school districts are expected to “say today, vaccinate or test” in some areas where COVID-19 positivity rates are high.
âI think school districts should say today, teachers, vaccine or test, if you are in a high risk CDC area,â he said. “I think they should say that today, to the teachers, in this current situation.”
âFor people in contact with the public who are in a high risk situation, I say there should be a mandatory vaccination policy. “
New York State United Teachers opposed a possible vaccine requirement for teachers.
âWe’ve been advocating since the start of the year that any educator who wants a vaccine should have easy access to one. We will support local efforts to encourage more vaccinations, for example through programs that require those who are not vaccinated to be tested regularly, âthe union said in a statement.
âBut it’s critical that districts make plans to make testing available on-site and free of charge. What we did not support was a vaccine mandate. “
Also on Monday, Cuomo announced that starting in September, unvaccinated workers at New York-area transit agencies will need to be tested weekly.
The MTA and Port Authorities in New York and New Jersey “adopt this policy starting on Labor Day.”
âSo this is the first step – a vaccine or a weekly test,â Cuomo said.
The leader of the transit workers’ union, TWU, said he would partner with MTA to “ensure that testing options are widely available at work sites.”
âWe firmly believe that everyone should be vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved one, âTWU President Tony Utano said in a statement.
âWe will continue to urge members to get vaccinated and we will work with the MTA to ensure testing options are widely available at work sites.â
The new rule follows Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding that unvaccinated city workers undergo weekly COVID-19 tests and wear face masks in their workplaces.
Meanwhile, the third-term Democrat urged private companies on Monday to “go for vaccine-only admission.”
âPrivate businesses, bars, restaurants, go for a vaccine-only admission,â he said. “I think it’s in your best business interests if I go to a bar and want to have a drink, and I want to talk to the person next to me.” I want to know that this person is vaccinated.
âI think it’s in your business interests to run a facility that specializes in vaccines. “
Although Cuomo recommended several pandemic precautions during his Monday morning press conference, state health commissioner Howard Zucker was absent.
“He’s got a few hard-earned vacation days,” said the governor, when asked why the mainstay of Cuomo’s briefing hadn’t attended Monday’s event.
âIt has been an unprecedented time in the daily grind and the way they’ve been able to do it,â he added. “He deserves it.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo’s office announced that the state was opening nine vaccination sites, including one in Manhattan and a pair on Long Island. The jab’s Manhattan location will be in the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem, Hicksville’s in the State Department of Labor building and Hauppauge in the Duryea State Office Building. .
The new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 come as cases in the Empire State have increased since June, as the most contagious Delta variant of the bug has spread. According to a Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus TrackerNew York State is currently home to 2,708 new cases over an average of seven days, after seeing fewer than 400 new cases of the coronavirus in late June, when fewer residents had received their vaccine.
“If those numbers are going up and starting to rise quickly,” Cuomo said, “there’s no way we’re not ready to move on.”
Additional reports by Reuven Fenton