New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul stood her ground, saying rehiring unvaccinated health care workers is not “the right answer,” even though vaccination mandates have been lifted and the state is suffering from a severe shortage of health care workers.
“I don’t think the answer is for someone who comes in who is sick to be exposed to someone who can give them COVID-19.” I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. So we’re exploring our options,” the New York governor said Tuesday after being asked about bringing back unvaccinated health care workers. “But I think anyone who goes into a health care facility or a nursing home should have the assurance and the family member he needs to know that we have taken all the steps to protect public health, and that includes making sure that those who come into contact with them at their most vulnerable, when they are ill or elderly, will not transmit the virus.”
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The reporter pushed back, asking Hochul if there were other precautions, such as wearing a mask, to allow unvaccinated health workers to return to hospitals.
“I can’t put people in danger because when you go into a health facility, you expect that you’re not going to come out sicker than you came in.” I think that’s something that every New Yorker would expect,” the governor replied.
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In a letter dated January 19, a group of ten lawmakers expressed concern to Governor Hochul about the severe staff shortage, which they say has worsened since the mandate.
“Decades of health care experience have been sidelined or pushed to other states as a result of the mandate,” Republican lawmakers wrote in the joint letter. “This is all the more remarkable given that the director of the US Centers for Disease Control has publicly stated that the vaccine cannot prevent transmission.
Lawmakers wrote the letter days after a state Supreme Court judge struck down the mandate on Jan. 13, calling it “null, void and of no effect.”
In his ruling, Judge Gerard Neri said the governor and the New York State Department of Health exceeded their authority by making the requirement permanent because the COVID-19 vaccine is not included in the state’s public health law.
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“The mandate is beyond the scope of the defendants’ authority and is therefore null, void and of no effect,” Judge Neri concluded.
After the decision, the state health department said Saturday that it was “exploring its options” after the ruling.
Beginning September 27, 2021, the state requires New York health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be terminated. As a result of the mandate, thousands of healthcare workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare providers were laid off, fired or forced to resign because they would not meet the mandate, creating a void in the industry.
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New York’s health care system is desperately short of staff, with reports of ambulances waiting for hours at local emergency rooms to unload patients.