Issuing a major directive in his last weeks in office, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Monday that all health care workers in the state, including staff at all hospitals, nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings, must have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27.
The state health department, Mr. Cuomo said in a news release, will issue special orders intended to prevent a “danger to the health of the people” in order to compel all hospital and nursing home employees to get vaccinated, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons. He cited the trajectory of the Delta variant across the state and said “we must now act again to stop the spread.”
To date, 75 percent of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, 74 percent of the state’s 30,000 adult care facility workers and 68 percent of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers have been fully vaccinated, the state said.
The mandate will apply to all hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care facilities, public and private. Unlike state workers, who have the option of being tested weekly instead of getting vaccinated, private hospital and nursing home workers will no longer have the testing option, said Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to the governor.
“We are interested in stopping Delta in its tracks, especially in the places where the most vulnerable are at risk,” Mr. Azzopardi said.
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration, the release said, was briefed before the announcement.
Mr. Cuomo resigned last Tuesday in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal, but he said he would remain in office for two more weeks. No news conference on the new mandates was planned, according to Mr. Azzopardi.
The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents 140 hospitals and health systems across the state, expressed support for the decision, citing how Covid hospitalizations have jumped in the last month.
“This is a critical moment requiring bold action,” said Kenneth E. Raske, the president of the association, in a statement.
The governor also hinted that a state vaccine requirement for businesses and teachers may be in the works.
“I have strongly urged private businesses to implement vaccinated-only admission policies, and school districts to mandate vaccinations for teachers,” he said in the release. “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.”
Understand the State of Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- Vaccine rules . . . and businesses. Private companies are increasingly mandating coronavirus vaccines for employees, with varying approaches. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. On Aug. 11, California announced that it would require teachers and staff of both public and private schools to be vaccinated or face regular testing, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York. On Aug. 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced that proof of vaccination would be required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, becoming the first U.S. city to require vaccines for a broad range of activities. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
These steps follow Mr. Cuomo’s recent announcements that Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority employees working in New York facilities, as well as all other state employees, will be required to be vaccinated or tested weekly by Labor Day. Patient-facing employees in state-run hospitals will be required to get vaccinated, and not have a test-out option.
As cases have jumped across the United States, private companies and several governments have introduced more vaccination rules for workers. California and Washington State recently announced vaccine mandates for health care workers in their states.
Separately, the state also authorized a third dose of coronavirus vaccine for immuno-compromised residents, following the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“This mandate will both help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the Delta variant,” the state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said in the release. “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.”