The MTA lifted its weekly COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated transit workers Tuesday, June 7, amNewYork Metro can exclusively reveal.
The transit authority did away with its testing mandate after eight months, according to a state source with knowledge of the decision, following a directive by Governor Kathy Hochul to get rid of the requirement for state employees more broadly.
An internal memo by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Chief Safety Officer Pat Warren from Tuesday afternoon obtained by amNewYork Metro confirmed this paper’s reporting, adding that MTA’s saliva and nasal swab testing sites will stay open until June 26.
“Based on New York State guidance, beginning today, June 7, the MTA will no longer require COVID-19 diagnostic testing for current employees who are not vaccinated,” Warren wrote.
“We’d like to thank you for your cooperation since the implementation of the program in October 2021 and encourage you stay vigilant and up to date with best practices for stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
The governor’s Office of Employee Relations sent out a directive Friday announcing it would lift the testing requirements for state employees starting Tuesday, the Albany Times Union reported.
A spokesperson for the office advised the public sector workers to instead seek out tests themselves with at-home rapid tests or at other testing sites.
“Given the wide availability of tests, agencies should encourage all employees to continue testing through home tests or at testing locations, and if they test positive, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or feel that they have been exposed to COVID-19, they should continue to follow the latest isolation and quarantine guidance from New York State Department of Health,” said Erin McCarthy in a statement.
The MTA began requiring its workers who refused to get at least one dose of the vaccine to submit to weekly testing starting in October, while setting up some 138 testing sites for staff.
The agency earmarked $100 million for the effort, which officials planned to get reimbursed for through federal COVID relief funds.
New hires for the more than 67,000-strong authority have had to be fully vaccinated since November.
The current vaccination rate for the MTA is 77% and the agency has administered more than 389,000 test to date, according to agency spokesperson Tim Minton.
For state employees overall, the vaccination rate is 80%, according to McCarthy.
The inoculation rate at the agency is up from 71% in early December. City workers were mandated to get at least one dose of the shots back then and had a vaccination rate of 94% at that time.
The MTA remained one of the few groups of workers in the city that didn’t have to ever get the vaccines after former Mayor Bill de Blasio implemented a mandate for private sector employees in the Big Apple as well during his final days in office in December.
The virus tore through the MTA workforce during the Omicron wave last winter with more than 17,000 positive tests — a quarter of its workforce — forcing the agency to suspend three subway lines for weeks at the beginning of the year due to crew shortages.
Coronavirus transmission and hospitalization rates have started to decline in recent weeks across the state with a new infection rates averaged over a week of 5.9% on Monday, compared to 8.7% on May 19 and 22.2% during the height of Omicron on January 7, according to data from the state’s Department of Health.
Hospitalizations were also down at 11.55 per 100,000 people on Monday, compared to 13.43 on May 23 and 62.73 on January 14.