Starting next month, Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced Wednesday, all New York City health care employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face mandatory weekly testing — and even possible suspension from their job.
The aggressive new COVID safety requirement begins on Monday, Aug. 2 and applies to all NYC Health and Hospitals staff and Department of Health clinical workers. Those who fail to follow the mandate will be subject to “suspension without pay,” the mayor said during his Wednesday morning press conference.
For de Blasio, it comes down to one thing: halting the spread of the Delta variant, a far more contagious and potent version of COVID-19.
“This is about keeping people safe and stopping the Delta variant. If we want to beat COVID once and for all, we have to stop the Delta variant,” de Blasio said.
According to City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, the mandate applies to “all of our clinic-based staff” which includes, nurses, doctors, social workers, custodians and registrars.
Employees who are vaccinated must show a proof of vaccination and that at any time, health care employees can decide they want to get the shot, and will no longer be required to get weekly testing.
“The simple fact is that if you’re vaccinated, virtually every activity is safer,” Chokshi said. “Because of the Delta variant, increasingly, the choice is between infection or vaccination and that can mean the difference between life and death. Vaccination has been and continues to be the single most important precaution we can take to interact with the public and our colleagues.”
He added that the plan for the weeks ahead is to extend this requirement to “additional Health Department staff” beyond the clinic staff.
As of July 21, the mayor said that over 9.77 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to 4.9 million New Yorkers across the city, about 58% of the population. De Blasio credited the high vaccination rate to the city’s grassroots efforts, which included mobile vaccination sites, canvassers knocking on doors, in-home vaccinations and vaccination referral bonuses.
“This has worked and it’s the reason we have our recovery, it’s the reason hospitalizations are low. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that we see the Delta variant and we see the case numbers rising and it’s time to act.”
Indicators presented at the Wednesday presser showed the following data:
- 108 (18.35 %) patients were confirmed to be COVID-19 positive
- the seven-day average for hospital admissions per 100,000 people is 0.41 %
- the seven-day average for newly reported COVID-19 cases is 597 cases
- the seven-day average for the percentage of people testing positive is 1.86 percent
“The numbers speak for themselves and it’s time for a new strategy like we’re announcing today,” the mayor said.
He thanked Health and Hospitals for being “heroic” in leading the fight against COVID-19 and promised to protect “health care workers and everyone they serve.”
“Every step of the way, they have been willing to be bold, they have been willing to set the pace for the nation [and] they’re doing it again today,” de Blasio said. “What we’re talking about today, I hope will be emulated by public and private health care systems all over America.”