New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that the city’s health workers will be required to be vaccinated or get tested for Covid on a weekly basis, The New York Times reports.
De Blasio has been reluctant to institute any vaccine mandates but announced the new policy as the city faces a steep increase in infections due to the spread of the Delta variant.
The order, which will go into effect next month, will require about 42,000 city health workers to show proof of vaccination or weekly negative tests as a condition for showing up to work. The order will only apply to the city’s public hospital system, which includes 11 hospitals and numerous nursing homes and clinics. Employees at the city Health Department will also need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Just 60% of the workforce in the city’s public health system are vaccinated even though they were first in line for the vaccines since late last year. About 2 million adult New Yorkers have not been vaccinated.
The city’s largest private hospital system also announced a vaccine requirement last month but others have not.
“It’s all about the safety of a health care setting,” said Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for de Blasio.
The city worker union said it did not learn about the policy until de Blasio publicly announced it.
“The union strongly encourages vaccinations among membership and we’ve done a lot to help our members get vaccinated,” union spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein told the Times, adding that “the union does not believe it’s the place of the employer to mandate it.”
But the union said it is supportive of more testing.
“Of course with all things, we’ll need to see how it’s being implemented,” Goldstein said.
But some medical experts say the policy is not enough.
“One test a week is better than no test, but more frequent testing is always better when you have a lot of community transmission and we may have that situation among unvaccinated people in the fall,” Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at CUNY School of Public Health, told the outlet.
More cities implement vaccine requirements:
The New York City order does not go nearly as far as San Francisco’s, where all city workers will be required to be vaccinated.
Mayor London Breed said last month that city employees must get vaccinated no later than 10 weeks after the FDA gives final approval to at least one vaccine.
"I had to think about our workforce, I had to think about the public and what I was subjecting the public to and it was important for me to make sure that we set an example with our workforce," Breed said.
Other cities, university systems, and health care systems have also implemented or announced vaccine requirements.