Hochul plans for staff shortages

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul said declaring a state of emergency and deploying the National Guard are among the efforts to address staffing shortages that are feared in the wake of today’s deadline for health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hochul said she is prepared to sign an executive order declaring a state of emergency that seeks to increase the supply of workers and allow qualified medical professionals from other states and countries, recent graduates, and retired or formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in the state.

Hochul is also considering deploying medically-trained members of the National Guard and requesting federal Disaster Medical Assistance teams to assist local health and medical systems.

Hochul also plans to work with the federal government to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.

“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 in a news release.

Hochul’s statement said that she was monitoring the staffing situation closely and that “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,” Hochul said, “and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care.”

All health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes are required to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. Staff at home care, hospice and adult care facilities are to be vaccinated by Oct. 7.

The mandate also applies to all out of state and contract medical staff who practice in New York State.

The fate of people seeking religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate is in the hands of the legal system now as the restraining order on the removal of the religious exemption, issued by a federal judge last week, was extended until Oct. 12.

Beginning on Tuesday when the vaccine mandate goes into effect, people exempted in both medical and religious categories will have to get fitted for an N95 mask and be tested for COVID-19 weekly.

As of Sept. 22, 84% of all the state’s hospital employees were fully vaccinated, according to the governor’s office. As of Sept. 23, 81% of staff at adult care facilities, and 77% of staff at nursing home were fully vaccinated, the governor’s office said.

The state Department of Labor has also issued guidance that said workers who are terminated because they refuse to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance unless they have a valid doctor’s approval for a medical accommodation.

Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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