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N.Y., N.J. impose COVID-19 vaccination mandates on key workers

By
Don Jacobson
Employees of New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority will need to get COVID-19 vaccinations by Labor Day or face weekly tests. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Employees of New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority will need to get COVID-19 vaccinations by Labor Day or face weekly tests. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Transit workers in New York and certain healthcare workers in neighboring New Jersey will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, officials in the two states announced Monday.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new policy in a televised briefing with the leaders of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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Cuomo said that starting on Labor Day, all MTA and Port Authority employees based in New York must either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or begin undergoing weekly tests.

"Everybody is talking about mask policies right now, but I don't believe a mask policy is going to be enough -- we need to talk about a vaccination policy," he said.

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The move comes a week after Cuomo similarly mandated that state employees must either be vaccinated or tested weekly, citing the surging number of daily cases and hospitalizations caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, especially among the unvaccinated.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in New York City are up 90% since July 4, with more than 300 people receiving in-patient treatment as of late last week.

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"The state is leading the way, but local governments, schools, public hospitals and even businesses should start considering mandatory vaccinations as well because if these numbers start to rise quickly, we can't afford to go backward and lose the progress we've already made," he said.

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Under the new rules, employee-only vaccination sites that were closed as usage dropped will be re-opened and nine new vaccination sites will be set up in locations with high concentrations of state employees.

"To date, nearly 70% of our workforce has already been vaccinated -- including some who got their doses in their home neighborhoods at pharmacies and other local sites," said acting MTA Chairman & CEO Janno Lieber. "It's great progress but we can and must do better in the interest of public health and safety."

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that all workers in certain state and private healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to testing at least once or twice per week.

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"While reaching our statewide vaccination goal has so far dampened the impact of the Delta variant in New Jersey, some of our most vulnerable populations remain at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 primarily due to exposure to unvaccinated individuals," he said.

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"We are taking this step today because it has been proven time and time again that vaccines save lives and are our way out of this pandemic."

The New Jersey mandate covers state-owned healthcare facilities such as psychiatric hospitals, veterans homes and prisons, as well as privately owned long-term care and assisted-living facilities and in-patient rehabilitation centers.

NYC celebrates essential workers with parade

The New York Mets mascot, Mr. Met, moves up the parade route on a float at the "Hometown Heroes" ticker tape parade in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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