N.Y.C. to Require City Workers to Be Vaccinated by Mid-September

The drive to get Americans vaccinated accelerated on Monday when the most populous state and largest city in the United States announced that they would require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, or face frequent tests.

All municipal employees in New York City, including police officers and teachers, and all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers in California will have to be vaccinated or face at least weekly testing.

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday also became the first federal agency to mandate that some of its employees get inoculated.

The mandates are the most dramatic response yet to the lagging pace of vaccinations around the country in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is tearing through communities with low rates of vaccination and creating what federal health officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant, but only 49 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

Misinformation and skepticism have dogged the vaccine rollout, too, and in recent weeks new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have risen, with a fourfold increase in new cases per day over the last month.

But both indicators, as well as new deaths, remain well below their winter peaks. Cities, private employers and other institutions have been grappling with whether to require vaccines to help get more people vaccinated.

Nearly 60 major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, signed a joint statement on Monday calling for the mandatory vaccination of health care workers that described inoculation as “the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers.”

Hospitals and health care systems like NewYork-Presbyterian and Trinity Health have already announced vaccine mandates, in some cases touching off union protests. The National Football League recently announced it could penalize teams with players who do not get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated, but not its current workers. And last week a federal judge ruled that Indiana University could require vaccinations for students and staff members.

New York City will require its roughly 340,000 municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Enforcing the testing requirement there could be complicated, since the more than two dozen unions that represent municipal employees could take issue with the rule.

Mr. de Blasio said the new measures were first steps and that more would follow, and he reiterated a call to private employers to set vaccine mandates for their workers.

“Right now we are leading by example,” the mayor said. “A lot of times, that’s what private sector employers say that’s what they need.”

In California, where 75 percent of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose, the new requirement will apply to roughly 246,000 state employees and many more health care workers in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

“Everyone that can get vaccinated — should,” Mr. Newsom said on Twitter.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York avoided supporting a statewide measure like Mr. Newsom’s and argued most “public-facing” employees are municipal, not state workers, suggesting mandates were more of a question for localities.

Mr. Newsom blamed misinformation for the pandemic’s persistence, slamming in particular Republican members of Congress and Fox News pundits who have questioned vaccines.

“We are exhausted — respectfully, exhausted — by the ideological prism that too many Americans are living under,” he said. “We are exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety.”

On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said vaccine mandates are meant to keep Americans safe, but she distanced the federal government’s vaccination efforts from such requirements, reinforcing comments she made last week that mandates were decisions best left to private sector companies, institutions and local communities.

“We are not going to judge our success here by whether we score political points,” she said on Monday. “We are going to judge it by whether we are able to save more lives, and if the health and medical experts suggest that’s the right way to go then we will support that.”

Eliza Shapiro contributed reporting.


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