Coronavirus
USA | Jul 21, 2021

New York City requires health workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly

/ Our Today

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12-year-old Justin Concepcion receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from registered nurse Angela Nyarko, during a vaccination event for local adolescents and adults outside the Bronx Writing Academy school in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 4, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

NEW YORK (Reuters)

As part of a nationwide response to the threat posed by the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant, New York City will require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly tests for workers at city-run hospitals and clinics.

The new policy will go into effect on August 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Wednesday (July 21). The city will suspend without pay any employee who refuses to either get vaccinated or tested.

“Because of the Delta variant, increasingly the choice is between infection or vaccination, and that can mean the difference between life and death,” Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said at the same briefing.

About 60 per cent of the more than 42,000 employees of New York City’s public hospital system are vaccinated, Mitch Katz, who heads the nation’s largest public healthcare system, said on Wednesday (July 20). Across New York City, 70 per cent of hospital staff have received both doses of the vaccine, state data shows.

Diego Cervantes, 16, receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at a vaccine clinic for newly eligible 12 to 15-year-olds in Pasadena, California, U.S., May 14, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

The percentage of New York public hospital workers who are fully vaccinated is also lower than the percentage of the city’s adult population, which stands at 65 per cent city health data shows.

The requirement marks the first time City Hall has mandated vaccinations or negative tests for public-sector workers.

In California, San Francisco took more decisive steps last month when it announced that all municipal workers in “high risk” settings such as homeless shelters and jails will have to get vaccinated by September 15.

De Blasio said New York may take further measures if the threat posed by the Delta variant grows. He did not rule out extending vaccination or test requirements to all city workers in the future.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies during a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the COVID-19 response, focusing on an update from federal officials, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 18, 2021. (Photo: Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS)

The highly contagious Delta variant that originated in India and has now become the dominant strain worldwide and has been wreaking havoc among the nation’s unvaccinated population in recent weeks.

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said last week that 97 per cent of people entering hospitals in the United States with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Dozens of hospitals and health systems across the United States have issued vaccination requirements for their staff.

Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of workers at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas over its requirement that they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

A healthcare worker administers a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to a woman at a pop-up vaccination site operated by SOMOS Community Care during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 29, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

A large medical system in New Jersey has fired half a dozen employees because they did not get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to media reports published on Tuesday (July 20).

Several states with low vaccination rates such as Utah, Arkansas and Louisiana are once again facing outbreaks, and some hospitals warned they are overwhelmed by the influx of COVID-19 patients.

“We have an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the Houston area,” Patti Muck, a spokesperson for Texas’ Houston Methodist, said in an email earlier this week. “The increased hospitalizations add stress to many of our hospitals that are nearing capacity.”

Coronavirus cases have nearly tripled over the last month and hospitalizations are up nearly 40 per cent, according to an analysis of Reuters data. Deaths, which can lag behind other indicators, were down 14 per cent over the same period of time.

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