As the Delta variant fuels a rise in COVID-19 cases, New York is tightening restrictions for state employees.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that all state workers will need to be vaccinated or submit to testing on a weekly basis, two days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a similar requirement for New York City government employees. The federal government is considering a similar policy for its employees.
Vaccinations will be required for all patient-facing health care workers in New York state hospitals — there will be no testing opt-out, the governor said.
New York is working with labor unions to implement the changes by Labor Day. Mr. Cuomo encouraged local governments to implement similar policies, as well as school districts in areas with higher COVID rates.
“If the numbers continue to go up the way they’re going up, school districts in those affected areas should strongly consider taking more aggressive action,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It will be hard, and I understand the politics, but I also understand if we don’t take the right actions, schools can become super spreaders in September.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidelines on Tuesday to note that vaccinated people should now wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools, to reduce COVID-19 spread. The guidance applies to communities with a “substantial” or “high” level of transmission — that includes Suffolk County, which is at “substantial” transmission levels.
The governor said Wednesday the state is still reviewing the new CDC recommendations in consultation with federal, international and state health experts. He did, however, say local governments in affected areas should “seriously consider the CDC guidelines.”
Mr. Cuomo lamented the Food and Drug Administration’s delay on issuing final approval of the vaccine, an action that would give the state more legal authority to mandate distribution. Asked specifically about whether teachers could be required to be vaccinated, the governor said that could be a decision for individual districts.
“The school district can say as an employee, you must get vaccinated,” he said.
The Riverhead Board of Education sent a letter to the governor and other elected officials July 21 urging the state to keep COVID-19 vaccinations as an option for individuals and not a mandate or precursor to attending school. Currently, only children ages 12 or older are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Nearly 75% of adults in New York have been vaccinated with at least one dose, according to the state website. A little over 62% of New York residents overall have been vaccinated with at least one dose. Suffolk County’s overall vaccine rates are on par with the state.
The state has started to dismantle mass vaccination sites as rates slow. The state-run site in Southampton closed Monday.
Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday that there were about 2,200 positive cases in the state, as compared to about 275 around the same time last month.