De Blasio to mandate vaccinations for NYC public hospital staff amid COVID uptick
Mayor de Blasio will issue an order Wednesday requiring staff at the city’s public hospitals to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus testing, a City Hall spokesman confirmed to the Daily News, as New York continues to see a troubling uptick in COVID-19 cases.
The order, which de Blasio plans to announce at his regularly scheduled press conference, will cover staff at the city’s 11 public hospitals as well as those who work in clinics operated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the spokesman, Bill Neidhardt.
“It’s all about the safety of our health care facilities,” Neidhardt said.
The mayor hinted that an order was forthcoming earlier Tuesday, saying he didn’t want to preempt “any specific thing that we’re working on” after being asked if he’s mulling a mandate.
“I want to just say: We will this week be making an additional announcement and — it’s not a great phrase, but I’ll use it — we are deadly serious about getting people vaccinated,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing.
The mandate could prove controversial in that it will force unvaccinated hospital workers to choose between getting their jabs, undergoing uncomfortable coronavirus tests frequently or being barred from working.
But a visibly frustrated de Blasio suggested in his briefing that the mandate is justified because of a recent spike in COVID-19 infections that comes as vaccine hesitancy remains persistent among several demographics, including public hospital staff.
“This is really getting insane at this point,” de Blasio said. “We’ve got to be blunt about it. If you’re not getting vaccinated, you’re actually causing harm to other people.”
Nearly one-third of the city’s public hospital workers remain unvaccinated, according to state Health Department data. That compares to 40% of the city’s total population that remains unvaccinated.
Meantime, COVID-19 infections are back on the rise.
Driven by the extremely contagious delta variant of COVID-19, the city’s seven-day rolling average on positive coronavirus tests reached 1.72% Tuesday, with a total of 576 new cases, according to New York City’s Health Department data. That’s the first time since May that the city has reported more than 550 new daily infections — a threshold that the de Blasio administration considers an indicator of whether or not the pandemic is under control.
New York’s COVID death and hospitalization rates remain relatively low. Two New Yorkers died from the virus on Monday, according to the latest State Health Department data.
But de Blasio suggested New Yorkers must remain vigilant in the face of virus mutations like Delta, which are causing major outbreaks in southern states, where vaccination rates are even lower.
“This is literally a matter of life and death,” the mayor said. “We could fix this problem.”
Despite the concerning COVID trend, de Blasio dug in his heels Tuesday on his refusal to reinstate an indoor face mask mandate, arguing it would be unfair to New Yorkers who have gotten their shots.
“I think it is a problem to say to people, ‘You did the right thing, but now you got to put your mask back on,’” de Blasio said.
But, de Blasio added, “If it came to that and it was one of the only things, of course, we would entertain it.”
A growing chorus of local public health experts and lawmakers have called on the mayor to reinstate an indoor mask mandate for all New Yorkers, regardless of vaccination status, to combat the recent infection surge.
They argue that a resumption of mandatory masking in public indoor settings like grocery stores could help safeguard against a major COVID-19 outbreak while the city ramps up efforts to get more shots into arms.
“We need a multi-front effort in the face of a 200% increase in cases in NYC over the past two weeks,” said Councilmember Mark Levin (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Council’s Health Committee. “That absolutely must include pushing harder to increase vaccination. And it also should mean encouraging New Yorkers to keep themselves, and others, safe by wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings.”