Healthcare workers in New York seeking an exemption to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate caught a break on Tuesday.
A federal judge issued a temporary block of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers who are seeking a religious exemption. The vaccine mandate is set to take effect on September 27. At this point, the state has not offered any testing option to serve as alternative to vaccination.
Judge David Hurd sided with a group of medical professionals challenging the law in federal court. The state Department of Health is now temporarily barred from enforcing the mandate on those who are seeking religious exemption.
Senator Pam Helming, R-54, has been among those who have warned that the vaccine mandate should be reconsidered anyway due to the workforce implications.
“I have heard from administrators, nurses, clinical support staff and other employees working for our Upstate area hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities about the devastating impact this mandate is already having on staffing levels. Rural communities in particular, like those I represent, have already been dealing with significant staffing shortages. This mandate will only make this problem worse,” Helming said. “I have received similar feedback from area nursing homes. One Monroe County nursing home shared that they currently have 90 openings; they are predicting a loss of an additional 50-75 employees once the vaccine mandate takes effect. A local assisted living facility owner called to express his concern; he anticipates losing 50% of his staff. A senior living center director is losing almost half of his housekeeping staff who have chosen not to get the vaccine for religious reasons; these workers are applying for open school bus driver positions so they have access to a testing alternative.”
So far, Governor Kathy Hochul has not weighed in on the issue since announcing the vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers.