ALBANY (AP) — Home health aides who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination are barred from working in New York as of Friday under a new state mandate that one industry group warned could lead to thousands of caregivers losing their jobs.
The mandate, put in place by Gov. Kathy Hochul, also applies to workers at assisted living homes, hospice care, treatment centers and AIDS home care programs. It comes on top of another mandate, implemented last month, that covered hospital and nursing home workers.
Data on how many of the state’s more than 210,000 home health aides had been vaccinated ahead of the deadline wasn’t immediately available from the state, but there are fears that many still hadn’t gotten their required first shot.
Joe Pecora, vice president of the Home Healthcare Workers of America, recently estimated that nearly 70% of the group’s 32,000 members had received the COVID-19 shot.
It was unclear early Friday whether home health agencies were having to suspend or lay off large numbers of workers. Hospitals across the state did have to lay off staffers who refused the shots, but a last-minute rush of reluctant workers to get vaccinated prevented large-scale staff shortages.
Hochul, a Democrat, has said the mandates for health care workers are needed to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from being infected by unvaccinated caregivers. Many of the deaths in the state’s nursing homes during the worst months of the pandemic in 2020 have been blamed on infected staff unknowingly spreading the virus to already fragile patients.
The state’s mandate is set to expand again on Nov. 1 to cover workers who work in state-run facilities offering health care to individuals living with developmental disabilities or mental health needs.
Court challenges aimed at overturning the mandates have, so far, failed, but a federal judge has temporarily allowed health care workers to request a religious exemption from vaccination while the legal fights play out.