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The New York State Department of Health announced it will not enforce a booster mandate for health care workers just days before a deadline was set to take effect, citing staffing shortages.
“In order to avoid potential staffing issues and give healthcare workers more time to get boosted, the State will no longer enforce the booster requirement that will go into effect on February 21,” the department of health said in a statement Friday.
Officials will reassess the plan in three months and determine “whether additional steps need to be taken to increase booster rates among the healthcare workforce.”
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“The vaccine and booster are critical tools to keep both healthcare workers and their patients safe, and we continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in the announcement.
“While we are making progress with 75% of staff received or are willing to receive their booster, the reality is that not enough healthcare workers will be boosted by next week’s requirement in order to avoid substantial staffing issues in our already overstressed healthcare system. That is why we are announcing additional efforts to work closely with healthcare facilities and ensure that our healthcare workforce is up to date on their doses,” she continued.
Disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a vaccine mandate for health care workers last year, requiring them to get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27 or face termination.
Data provided by the New York health department to Fox News in December showed 31,858 health care workers at nursing homes, hospitals and other health providers were terminated, furloughed or forced to resign because they would not comply with the mandate.
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Staffing shortages have plagued health centers in the state, and Gov. Kathy Hochul extended a declaration of a statewide disaster emergency order due to healthcare staffing shortages in January. The order will expire on March 1.
Leading up to the Feb. 21 booster deadline, New York health leaders called on the state to rethink the plan.
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“The state has recently heard from numerous stakeholders about how enforcement of the booster mandate could exacerbate New York’s health care staffing shortage, which is the subject of a declared emergency,” Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske said, according to SI Live.
The CEO of LeadingAge New York, an association of care providers such as nursing homes and senior housing groups, said the state not enforcing the mandate was “smart.”
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“Three days were not going to be enough time to get enough boosted staff members to serve the residents and patients we have to serve,” LeadingAge New York’s Jim Clyne said.