New York State might use the National Guard to fill staffing vacancies when its COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect Monday and nudges holdouts from their hospital jobs.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state might also declare a state of emergency that allows qualified health staff from other states and countries to fill gaps at medical centers that are weary from the long-running pandemic.
“We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” the Democrat said ahead of the deadline. “I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities.”
New York required workers at hospitals and nursing homes to receive an initial dose by Monday and those who work in hospice or adult-care facilities to be vaccinated by Oct. 7.
Recent figures suggest a significant block of workers remains unvaccinated. As of Wednesday, 84% of all hospital employees in New York State were fully vaccinated, while as of Thursday 81% of staff at adult-care facilities and 77% of staff at nursing homes were fully vaccinated.
Some health workers say they fear side effects from the shots, and the state’s refusal to grant religious exemptions sparked lawsuits.
Monday’s deadline will also be a testing ground for mandates on health workers.
Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon and the District of Columbia say nurses and health staff must choose between vaccination and their jobs. Other blue states are requiring vaccination or the option to be tested regularly, akin to President Biden’s forthcoming requirements on large employers.