NY to require state employees to get vaccines, or get tested

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York will require all state employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Labor Day or undergo weekly tests for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

“It’s smart, it’s fair and it’s in everyone’s interest,” Cuomo said in a Zoom call with the nonprofit Association for a Better New York.

In mandating either the shots, or frequent testing for government workers, Cuomo is following on the heels of California and New York City, which announced similar policies for employees earlier this week.

New York, like other states, has seen a rising number of coronavirus cases linked to the Delta variant. New infections have climbed more than 400% since the end of June.

Cuomo said vaccines would be mandatory for “front-line” workers at state-owned hospitals. Those employees would not be able to avoid inoculations by undergoing frequent virus testing. The state runs hospitals in Syracuse and New York City and on Long Island.

The Democrat said his administration still needed to speak with union officials about how to implement the policy. Some unions representing government workers in New York City have objected to the “get vaccinated or get tested” mandate there, which is set to take effect in mid-September.

Requests for comment were sent to several unions representing large numbers of state employees.

While overall rates of infection in New York remain much lower than they were over the winter, the voluntary vaccination campaign here has stalled, as it has in much of the U.S.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that New York City will sweeten the pot by offering $100 to any city resident who gets a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a city-run site.

“We’ll say thank you,” the mayor said at a virtual news briefing. “We’ll say we’re really glad that you got vaccinated for yourself, for your family, for your community, and here’s $100 to thank you for doing the right thing and to encourage people.”

New York City and the state have already offered vaccination incentives including lottery tickets, scholarships, free subway rides and complimentary tickets to museums, sports games and other attractions.

Other locales, including the state of New Mexico and the city of Gadsden, Alabama, also have offered $100 cash payments. Others have offered a more limited version — Ohio is offering $100 gift cards to Medicaid members who get inoculated, and West Virginia is providing $100 savings bonds to 16-to-35-year-olds who do so.

President Joe Biden is considering requiring federal employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing and wear a mask. A growing number of hospitals and nursing homes across the U.S. have been mandating vaccines for workers.

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Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz contributed from New York City.