NEW YORK, N.Y. (UPDATED) – A month out from the start of school, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged districts Monday to put vaccine policies in place for teachers, either requiring shots or weekly testing in areas with increasing COVID rates.
“I believe school districts should say today: Teachers, vaccine, or test, if you are in a CDC high risk area, the red or the yellow zones, I think they should say that today to the teachers in this current situation,” said Cuomo.
The New York State United Teachers union issued the following statement in response, saying they encourage vaccinations, but not a mandate.
“We have advocated since the beginning of the year that any educator who wants a vaccine should have easy access to one. We would support local efforts to encourage more vaccinations, such as through programs that require that those who are not vaccinated get tested on a regular basis. But it’s critical that districts come up with plans to make testing available on-site and at no cost. What we have not supported is a vaccine mandate.”
"Mandatory vaccination for teachers if the numbers go up. Why? Teachers are in front of a classroom. How many kids does a teacher interact with during the course of a day? Thirty, forty, a hundred, hundred and fifty? That child can get the virus and go home," said Cuomo. "Why shouldn't the teacher be vaccinated? If the teacher doesn't want to be vaccinated, fine, but then don't be in front of a classroom. If the numbers go up."
Last week, Cuomo announced all state workers would have to get vaccinated or be tested weekly starting on Labor Day. To assist in this effort, a new state vaccination site will be set up at the State Office Building in Utica this week, with testing sites slated to open in September.
New York is also requiring all public-facing workers at state-run hospitals to get vaccinated. Cuomo is urging private nursing homes and health care facilities to consider mandatory vaccines as well.
The governor also encouraged private businesses to admit only vaccinated people into their establishments in an effort to incentivize people to get the shots.
"Private businesses, I am asking them and suggesting to them go to vaccine only. Go to vaccine-only admission. We did this Radio City Music Hall months ago. Reopened vaccine-only, sold out all the shows. Sports arenas. They went up to about 90 percent vaccine-only,: said Cuomo. "Private businesses, bars, restaurants. Go to a vaccine-only admission. I believe it's in your best business interest."