New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who assumed the job after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, announced that she is prepared to declare a state of emergency if the state’s vaccine mandate results in an unmanageable shortage of healthcare workers. The mandate, which pertains to all New York healthcare workers, is set to take effect this week.
“I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities,” Hochul said. Declaring a state of emergency would allow the state to bring in health care workers from other states or countries, as well as those who’ve either recently graduated or previously worked in the industry, according to Hochul. The state is also planning to train national guard personnel in order to deal with the expected staffing shortages.
In a last minute effort to coerce healthcare workers to get vaccinated, Hochul announced that the state is taking measures to ensure that workers who are fired over refusing the vaccine will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. “We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” Hochul said. “I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities. I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care.”
Last week, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that will allow health care workers to claim religious exemptions to the vaccine through approval from their employer. These exemptions are not guaranteed, however. More legal challenges to the state’s mandate are expected, though Hochul has said that her administration will be doing everything possible to uphold the mandate.
Staffing shortages are already beginning to take a toll on New York’s hospitals that are supposedly overwhelmed with COVID patients. Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, NY recently stopped delivering babies after multiple nurses in the maternal unit resigned. The hospital is expecting more staffing shortages as the mandate is set to take effect. Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse recently announced that they would be scaling back to 13 operating rooms in service, down from a full capacity of 35 rooms. The state is also expecting staffing shortages in schools as a mandate in the education sector looms.