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Although New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency because of staffing shortages due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, 92% of hospital and nursing home staff had received their first dose by the Monday deadline.
New York is the first state with a mandate that all healthcare workers receive COVID-19 vaccines, and while the mandate has resulted in a very high percentage of workers being vaccinated, there are still concerns about staffing shortages.
The mandate, which went into effect on September 27, required that all healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes in New York State receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. By October 7, staff in other entities, such as home care, hospice, and adult care facilities, must be vaccinated.
On Monday, 92% of hospital staff, 92% of nursing home staff and 89% of adult care facilities staff had received at least 1 dose. Approximately 87% of hospital staff are fully vaccinated, which is up slightly from the 84% that was fully vaccinated on September 22.
Since the mandate went into effect, the governor’s office is reporting there have been zero healthcare facilities in the state that have closed.
“Our greatest responsibility is to protect our most vulnerable, and ensuring that the health care workers who care for our loved ones are vaccinated is critical to keeping New Yorkers safe," Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement."I am grateful to the facilities, unions, and health care workers who took important steps to prepare and protect New Yorkers, and we are working with facilities to ensure they remain operational. We will continue to monitor developments and work with stakeholders to troubleshoot any issues, and I stand ready to take additional action as needed."
In the week leading up to the deadline, Hochul had released a comprehensive plan to address staffing shortages at hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the state. The plan included an executive order, which she signed on Monday, to declare a state of emergency, which would allow qualified healthcare professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing healthcare professionals to practice in the state of New York.
Hochul’s plan also included the potential deployment of medical-trained National Guard members.
"As nurses, we are committed to providing the best care for our patients and working with the Governor on these efforts,” said Pat Kane, RN, executive director of New York State Nurses Association. “We need adequate staffing to protect our patients and our colleagues, and we want to do everything we can to avoid returning to crisis levels during the pandemic. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for her leadership and for her bold and strategic plan to support nurses, patients, and ensuring the best possible care.”
In July, a coalition of healthcare associations, including the American Hospital Association, had published a joint statement supporting mandatory vaccination policies among hospitals and health systems.
“As representatives of America’s hospitals and health systems, we stand united in strongly urging all health care personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccination, given the disease’s known and substantial risks to the unvaccinated of severe illness, death and long-term complications,” they wrote.
Since then, President Joe Biden issued a new rule that all employers with 100 or more workers require COVID-19 vaccinations or test those unvaccinated employees weekly, while all health facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must be fully vaccinated.
In addition, the FDA and CDC have made the decision to make healthcare professionals eligible to receive a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine six months after they received their second dose.
“I am encouraged that many nurses on the frontlines will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster,” Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), said in a statement. “ANA is grateful for the CDC’s decision to include individuals who are at higher risk of infection due to their occupation and work environment, such as nurses and health care professionals. Nurses deserve and must have the highest level of protection available to continue providing safe patient care, administering COVID-19 vaccines, and setting an example for millions of Americans.”