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New York Ramps Up COVID Vaccine Mandates, with More Restrictions Soon to Follow

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Vaccine mandates expanded Monday as New York state ordered hospital and nursing home workers to get COVID-19 shots.

New York City was poised to start requiring them for anyone in restaurant dining rooms, gyms, museums and many other leisure venues.

The new policies aim to goad people into getting vaccinated as New York, like the rest of the United States, faces concerns about the delta variant of the virus.

Some cities, states and federal agencies have rapidly shifted from encouraging vaccinations to either-or requirements — inoculation or testing — to a flat-out insistence on vaccination for some settings or workforces.

“Just buy into this because it’s going to work for all of us, is going to make us all safer,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

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In a nationwide first for a city government, the Democrat announced earlier this month that proof of vaccination would be required to partake in much of public life, from indoor dining to gym workouts to theater.

Other cities, including San Francisco, later followed New York’s move.

The vaccine mandate applies to patrons, employees, New Yorkers, commuters and visitors alike in settings ranging from arenas to coffee shops to yoga studios.

There are exceptions for children under 12 — who are not yet eligible for vaccination — and athletes, contractors and some performers who don’t live in the city.

Do you approve of New York's vaccine mandates?

The policy also excludes church potlucks, community centers, office buildings, house parties (even if they’re catered) and people ducking in somewhere to pick up food or use the bathroom.

It goes into effect Tuesday, but enforcement will not begin until Sept. 13 in order to give the public more time to get vaccinated.

City officials promised training for businesses on how to handle possible confrontations between patrons and staffers, who will be on the frontlines of checking vaccination status.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the city’s most visited venues, said it was working on how to implement the new rule but was happy to comply.

“We wholly support all efforts to increase vaccination rates,” spokesman Ken Weine said.

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New York state’s new policy for hospitals and long-term care facilities follows vaccination requirements for health care workers in California, members of the U.S. military and patient care staffers in the federal Health and Human Services Department and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Some private businesses, from Google to United Airlines, also have ordered employees to get the shot.

“We must now act again to stop the spread. Our healthcare heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine,” said Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is leaving office later this month after resigning amid sexual harassment and nursing home scandals.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New York has risen over the past two weeks from over 2,400 new cases per day to nearly 4,200, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

New York City averaged 2,000 new cases of coronavirus per day over the past seven days, up from around 200 per day in late June.

While the number of cases has increased, fatalities haven’t followed suit. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,483 people have died from COVID-19 this month as of Monday, a pace that would make the August death toll the lowest since February 2020.

New York state took a more limited step late last month, requiring vaccination for staffers who work directly with patients at state-owned hospitals and veterans homes.

Asked whether the new policy applies only to front-line workers and whether it would also extend to such settings as medical offices and home health care, state Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag said the agency was working to finalize the details.

About 75 percent of the roughly 450,000 hospital workers statewide, 68 percent of the 145,500 nursing home workers and 74 percent of the 30,000 other adult care facility workers are fully vaccinated, Cuomo’s office said in a news release.

That compares with about 58 percent of all New Yorkers and 70 percent of those 18 and older.

The Greater New York Hospital Association, a statewide advocacy group, called workers’ vaccination rates “impressive” while endorsing the new requirement.

“This is a critical moment requiring bold action,” President Kenneth Raske said, noting that many hospitals already had vaccine mandates.

There was no immediate comment from SEIU 1199, a major health care workers union, or the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses.

Under the new policy, workers in hospitals, nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings will have to get at least a first dose of vaccine by Sept. 27, with what the state called “limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons.”

While officials push more people to get vaccinated, the Health Department on Monday authorized additional doses for people with severely weakened immune systems.

On Friday, the federal government approved third doses of the usually two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for transplant recipients and other similarly immune-compromised patients but not the general public.

New York had its own task force of scientists and health experts to review the matter before giving the OK in the state.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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