New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will mandate all employees of the city’s public hospitals and health clinics be vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive mandatory regular testing.
The mayor’s order, announced Wednesday, will take effect August 2 and will cover Health and Hospitals Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s public clinic employees, according to the New York Daily News.
“We’re in a new era of COVID where there’ve been millions of people vaccinated and hospitalizations rates have gone down, but cases are rising and we need to make sure our health care facilities are as safe as possible,” a senior administration official told the New York Post on Tuesday, before the announcement. “That’s the logic.”
For employees who don’t take the shots, they’ll have to undergo weekly testing for COVID-19.
The Post said fewer than 60% of staffers within the Health and Hospital Department are fully vaccinated, even though they were the first people who could get the shots. That’s even below the number of city residents who have been fully vaccinated, which stands at just slightly above 64%.
“This is literally a matter of life and death,” de Blasio said Tuesday before the policy was unveiled. “At a certain point, personal responsibility actually matters.”
“So, we’ve been really nice, really communicative, really respectful,” he added. “Come on people, it’s time to step forward — and we’re going to make that real clear.”
Although the policy does not apply to private hospitals, NBC-4 reports that the mayor has said he wants them to institute similar policies.
Last month, a federal judge tossed a lawsuit filed by more than 100 employees of a private Houston hospital system, who objected to a mandate to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
Houston Methodist Hospital, which manages eight hospitals, gave employees until June 7 to get the vaccine or they could be suspended or fired. Last week, the system suspended 178 workers without pay.
Before that, though, 117 full- and part-time workers filed a lawsuit.
But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston ruled Saturday that the argument from lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” is false. The judge also said Bridges’ contention that the vaccine requirement is tantamount to the Nazis’ medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust to be “reprehensible.”
And Hughes also said that a business can require workers to get a vaccine and is not coercion, as Bridges claimed in the lawsuit.
“Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else,” Hughes wrote.
“If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for remuneration. That is all part of the bargain,” the judge said.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jared Woodfill, disagreed and vowed to file an appeal. “All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy,” the lawyer said in a statement.