ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - As the deadline closed in for hospital and nursing home workers in New York state to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul made an 11th-hour plea to holdout health care workers to get inoculated.
Hospitals and nursing homes braced for the prospect of severe staff shortages fueled by workers getting suspended or fired for refusing to be inoculated.
“But we were hit the first, we were hit the hardest and I want to be the first to say ‘we’re over this.’ And so, I’m calling on all the health care workers," said Hochul. "First of all, those of you who have been vaccinated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what was right and helping lead the way so we do have the confidence that we need. And to those who have not yet made that decision – please do the right thing.”
With thousands of workers still thought to be holding out, administrators prepared contingency plans that included cutting back on non-critical services and limiting admissions at nursing homes.
Earlier this month, Mohawk Valley Health System assessed its vaccinated staff and found about 20% had not yet received a shot, meaning they could lose up to 800 workers across the entire health network.
About 96% of employees at Bassett Healthcare Network are vaccinated, which means the system is at risk of losing roughly 200 employees if they don't get their vaccines by midnight.
Hochul said health care workers in New York are required to be vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of Monday.
The governor also said she plans to sign an executive order Monday that will allow her to deploy the National Guard to help with staffing shortages across the state.
Some health care workers are concerned they will be asked to take on extra duties because of the imminent shortages.
“It’s a concern, and I’ll tell you, my heart breaks for the nurses and the other individuals who’ve done the right thing, who now know because…not everyone was being persuaded to do the right thing, that they have to work harder and they’re going to have more sacrifice. It’s fundamentally unfair. And we’re going to have to bring in people to help at all levels, no doubt about it. Again, it doesn’t have to be this way. It does not," said Hochul.