NY to Require Vaccines or Testing for State Employees, Starting Sept. 1

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that New York will require state employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to mandatory testing for the virus starting on Sept. 1. 

The requirement comes just two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a similar policy requiring New York City municipal workers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 13 or undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

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“President [Joseph] Biden has reported that he’s going to announce soon that all federal employees must be vaccinated or get tested,” Cuomo said. “New York state is doing the same … We want to get it done by Labor Day.”

The state will also require patient-facing health care workers at state hospitals to get vaccinated, the governor announced on Wednesday. Health care workers will not have a testing option, according to ABC News 10.

About 56.6 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated, while 62.4 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to New York state data. That leaves 37.6 percent of the state’s population who still need to receive a first dose.

Meanwhile, the highly contagious Delta variant and slowing vaccination rates are causing coronavirus cases in the state to increase, NBC reported. Positive COVID-19 cases have nearly doubled in the state within the past week, forcing public officials to reconsider a mask mandate

“There’s no doubt that the Delta variant is real,” Cuomo said. “You see it in the numbers. Today, we have 2,200 cases. One month ago, basically, we had 275 cases. The increase in the numbers is real. It’s not a fabrication.”

New York state saw 2,032 new cases on July 25, and 1,526 new cases on July 26, according to New York Times data. One month ago, on June 25, the state saw 343 new cases, followed by 345 on the 26th.

The governor said he was working with public-sector unions to implement the requirement quickly and fairly. Unions were mixed on New York City’s vaccine requirement: The United Federation of Teachers praised the approach, while the AFL-CIO District Council 37 the largest public employee union in the city — said the requirement needed to be collectively bargained first. Other labor leaders have stressed that any policy involving mandating vaccines is subject to collective bargaining agreements, Commercial Observer reported.

Cuomo also urged private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated. 

“I think private-sector businesses can help,” Cuomo said. “You can admit vaccinated-only people into your establishment … I think it will be an incentive for business and it will be an incentive for people to actually get the vaccine.”

But, employers have been reluctant to impose strict vaccination requirements, CO reported. Some have established incentive programs; others are using the honor system to uncover who is vaccinated; and a handful have required all employees to be vaccinated, including the Durst Organization and The Washington Post.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.