NEW YORK — If a healthcare worker at any of the city’s public hospitals, clinics, or other facilities isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 , or doesn’t get tested for it weekly, they’ll be suspended without pay, according to as a new rule that Mayor Bill de Blasio.
And while organizations that represent workers at those facilities are not disputing the new directive, they also warned the city against overreach, as the mayor talked about possibly extending his order to other municipal workers.
“Every single one of our workers gets vaccinated or gets tested weekly,” the mayor said, describing the new rule at his Wednesday morning press briefing.
He said that the order was part of a larger effort to boost vaccination rates.
In New York City, de Blasio said, about 58% of all residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, among health care workers in the city’s public facilities — who are, by nature of where they work, more likely to come into contact with coronavirus — the vaccination rate is almost identical to that of the general population: it’s around 60%, according to NYC Health + Hospitals chief Dr. Mitchell Katz.
“That’s sad, though,” said East Flatbush resident Patricia Phillip. Central Brooklyn has some of the lowest rates of vaccination in the city. Borough Park, Canarsie, and Flatlands-Midwood aren’t much different.
“You have to think about it,” Phillip continued. “You hear about people dying.”
The city can’t force residents to get vaccinated or tested, but as for its healthcare workers, Mayor de Blasio said that there would be consequences.
“[If] they still refuse, they will be suspended without pay. That’s the penalty,” he said.
Henry Garrido, executive director of DC-37, the largest public employee union in the city, said that, while the union favors vaccination and testing for its members, it doesn’t want them to be intimidated by de Blasio.
“Rather than send an edict to a press conference,” Garrido said in an interview, “perhaps [try] talking to the workers.”
The mayor indicated that his order could be the starting point for similar directives for other city employees, such as firefighters, police officers, EMTs or teachers.
“We’re going to look at all of those things,” the mayor said.
The head of the union, however, warned against the mayor overstepping his authority.
“To mandate that all 400,000 city workers, many of them who are working remotely, like an IT worker who may be working from home, ” said Garrido, “I think that policy, it’s still a bridge too far.”
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