The U.S. Department of Veterans Administration, the State of California, and New York City announced Monday that employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in coming months ― or, in the case of California and New York, undergo regular testing.
The VA becomes the first federal agency to mandate COVID vaccinations for workers. In a news release, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the mandate is “the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country.”
Title 38 VA health care personnel ― including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries, and chiropractors ― have eight weeks to become fully vaccinated, the news release said. The New York Times reported that about 115,000 workers will be affected.
The Monday trifecta of federal-state-municipal vaccine requirements arrived as the nation searches for ways to get more people vaccinated to tamp down the Delta variant.
Some organizations, including the military, have already said vaccinations will be required as soon as the FDA formally approves the vaccines, which are now given under emergency use authorizations.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the requirements he announced Monday were the first in the nation on the state level.
“As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same,” Newsom said in a news release.
The California employees must provide proof of vaccination or undergo testing at least once a week. The policy starts Aug. 2 for state employees and Aug. 9 for state health care workers and employees of congregate facilities, such as jails or homeless shelters.
California, especially the south part of the state, is grappling with COVID surge. The state’s daily case rate more than quadrupled from a low of 1.9 cases per 100,000 in May to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000 today, the release said.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously announced that NYC Health and Hospitals employees and those working in Department of Health and Mental Hygiene clinical settings would be required to provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing.
On Monday he expanded the rule to cover all city employees, with a Sept. 13 deadline for most of them, according to a news release.
“This is what it takes to continue our recovery for all of us while fighting back the delta variant,” de Blasio said. “It’s going to take all of us to finally end the fight against COVID-19.”
“We have a moral responsibility to take every precaution possible to ensure we keep ourselves, our colleagues and loved ones safe,” NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD, said in the release. “Our City’s new testing requirement for city workers provides more piece of mind until more people get their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.”
NBC News reported the plan would affect about 340,000 employees.
Veterans Administration. “VA mandates COVID-19 vaccines among its medical employees including VHA facilities staff”
The New York Times. “V.A. Issues Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers, a First for a Federal Agency”
State of California. “California Implements First-in-the-Nation Measures to Encourage State Employees and Health Care Workers to Get Vaccinated”
City of New York. “Recovery for All of Us: Mayor de Blasio Announces City Workforce Health Care Mandate”
NBC News. “N.Y.C. to require vaccinations or weekly testing for city workers”
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