New York is a bellwether of sorts for vaccine mandates, as a number of states have imposed similar requirements that take effect soon, including California, where health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. New York’s mandate is among the strictest, providing no option to test weekly rather than get vaccinated. It also allows no religious exemptions, though that is the subject of litigation.
In the New York City public hospital system, more than 8,000 workers were unvaccinated a week ago. By Monday morning, that number had dropped to about 5,000 — or just over 10 percent of the work force.
Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president of the system, said Tuesday that about 500 unvaccinated nurses were among the employees placed on unpaid leave on Tuesday, but that the system had enough staff and reinforcements to continue functioning safely.
In Rochester, officials at Strong Memorial Hospital placed a two-week pause on scheduling elective procedures and warned patients to expect longer wait times for routine appointments as the deadline loomed last week. But on Monday, they announced that they had been able to bring their staff vaccination rate to 95.5 percent, up from 92 percent last week.
After staff members with exemptions are accounted for, fewer than 300 employees out of 16,000 will be fired if they don’t relent, said Kathleen Parrinello, the chief operating officer of the hospital.
“Some are still very scared,” she said. “So they need hand-holding and reassurance.” Other employees, she said, told her they weren’t convinced they should get vaccinated but didn’t want to lose their jobs.
In the courts, some of the lawsuits filed by opponents of the mandate are based on First Amendment grounds. Others argue that the state should recognize immunity from prior infection, though most scientists say that does not provide sufficient protection and insist that vaccination is superior.