New York City Mandates Municipal Workers Be Vaccinated By Mid-September
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
As cases of the delta variant rise, several cities and states are requiring that public employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. Today, New York City announced that its government workers must be vaccinated by mid-September. Those who refuse will have to wear masks indoors and submit to weekly COVID tests. These requirements will apply to about 340,000 workers. That includes teachers and police officers. And shortly after that announcement, California announced that it will require state employees to show proof of vaccination. NPR's Jasmine Garsd is in New York City and joins us now.
JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hey.
CHANG: So what are the numbers like in New York? Like, why is this mandate coming down now?
GARSD: Well, cases in New York have nearly doubled over the last week. And the mayor expressed concern over the delta variant. At a press conference this morning, he said he believes September is going to be a crucial month for the city.
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BILL DE BLASIO: September is the pivot point of the recovery. September is when many employers are bringing back a lot of their employees. September is when school starts full strength. September is when people come back from the summer. September is when it will all happen.
CHANG: September, September, September - OK. So this requirement is for government workers, but then what about everyone else?
GARSD: Well, Mayor Bill - Mayor de Blasio urged private companies to get stricter with vaccination requirements. Look, New York City has a high vaccination rate compared to other parts of the country. Right now, 54% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. But there's this tangible sense of urgency as the city reopens and delta variant numbers start to creep up.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, what about communities in New York where the vaccination rates are still pretty low?
GARSD: Well, I mentioned earlier that 54% of New York City is fully vaccinated, but that varies tremendously. Only 31% of Black New Yorkers are vaccinated. Boroughs like the Bronx lag way behind. So in a separate press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that in immigrant communities and some communities of color, there is a well-founded apprehension towards the medical establishment and public health matters. And today, he announced he's allocating $15 million to organizations that will help vaccination efforts on the ground in communities that have high positivity rates and low vaccination rates.
CHANG: I'm just wondering, Jasmine. Can city and state governments actually require this? Like, is there legal precedent for this?
GARSD: There is precedent. And in recent weeks, some hospitals and health care systems have announced that they would begin requiring all employees to be vaccinated. And the VA announced today its health care personnel must get vaccinated. And the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that the mandates are permissible. For example, many hospitals already require employees to get flu shots. So of course, just because it's legal doesn't mean it isn't controversial. We've already seen a lot of pushback, and I think we can expect to see more.
CHANG: That is NPR's Jasmine Garsd in New York City.
Thank you, Jasmine.
GARSD: Thank you.
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