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New York to Require Vaccination or Weekly Testing for City Health Workers

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For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been reluctant to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for anyone, hoping that encouragement, convenience and persuasion would be enough.

But with two million adult New Yorkers still unvaccinated and the Delta variant threatening the city with a third wave of cases, City Hall is trying out a new tactic: requiring workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics to get vaccinated or get tested on a weekly basis, the mayor’s spokesman said Tuesday.

The new policy, which will be announced by Mr. de Blasio on Wednesday and goes into effect at the beginning of August, goes nowhere near as far as San Francisco’s announcement last month that it will require all municipal employees to get vaccinated. Still, it is Mr. de Blasio’s first move to require any city employee to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test as a condition of showing up to work, city officials said. It is likely to cover more than 10 percent of the more than 300,000 people who work for city government.

It remains unclear whether City Hall will expand this approach to other city employees — police officers, teachers, bus drivers — or will limit this to those who work in hospitals and clinics.

“It’s all about the safety of a health care setting,” Bill Neidhardt, the mayor’s press secretary, said of the policy.

The new policy will apply to workers at the 11 city-run hospitals, which include Bellevue and Elmhurst, as well as nursing homes and clinics. The policy will also cover some employees of the city’s Health Department.

There are still two million adult New Yorkers who have yet to receive a dose of any coronavirus vaccine.

As the initial crush of adults eager to get vaccinated began to subside in late April, the city tried knocking on people’s doors and offering shots in settings ranging from subway stations to museums, among other tactics. And yet that has not done much to jump-start vaccinations.

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Each day, fewer than 10,000 New York City residents on average are opting to get their first shot. Getting more adults vaccinated is a pressing concern as the Delta variant has already sent case counts spiking to nearly 600 a day in the last week, more than double the daily average in late June.

And while nearly 54 percent of city residents of all ages are fully vaccinated — some five percentage points more than the national average — there are some neighborhoods with far less protection. The vaccination rates across the Bronx and Brooklyn are below the national average. Black neighborhoods and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in particular tend to have lower vaccination rates, with as few as 35 percent of residents fully vaccinated in some ZIP codes.

Hospital workers tend to be vaccinated at slightly higher rates than the general population. Across New York City, 70 percent of hospital workers are fully vaccinated, according to state data, compared with an adult citywide vaccination rate of nearly 65 percent. Hospital workers in the Bronx are vaccinated at a markedly lower rate — 61 percent.

The city’s largest private hospital system, NewYork-Presbyterian, announced last month that it would require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, becoming an outlier among the city’s large hospital systems.

But it has yet to enforce that policy, allowing employees until Aug. 1 to apply for exemptions and until Sept. 1 to get the first shot. More than 70 percent of employees are vaccinated, according to Alexandra Langan, a spokeswoman for NewYork-Presbyterian.



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