ALBANY – While more health care workers have become vaccinated against Covid-19, a state vaccine mandate for hospital, nursing home and other health sector workers has resulted in an overall 3% reduction in staffing levels due to resignations, firings or furloughs of jab-opposed employees, Gov. Kathy Hochul acknowledged Wednesday.
The administration did not immediately respond to questions about the specifics behind that overall number, and the effect – from reductions in elective surgeries to slowing nursing home admissions – is only known by anecdotal stories from different regions of the state.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said New York will appeal the decision.
Details were also not released breaking down the staff reduction by position, including doctors, nurses or personal care assistants.
Hochul released the number while focusing on vaccination rate numbers that have risen since she took office in August. Ninety-seven percent of nursing home staff, for instance, now have at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Democratic governor characterized as “fluid” the numbers regarding overall staff reductions seen since the mandate kicked in on different dates for health workers. She said the 3% figure was an overall one when all affected facilities – hospitals, nursing homes, adult care and home care – are factored in. The Buffalo News has asked for specific staffing levels for each sector both before and since the mandate.
Unlike hospital and nursing home workers, employees in those facilities have been able to bypass the vaccination requirement with a weekly test.
Hochul said the staff reduction comes as a result of different actions by employees who declined to get vaccinated, including people who resigned, retired or were furloughed. The state has also been asked to furnish information about how many vaccinated replacement workers there are, including those via placement agencies from out of state, but it has not furnished that information yet.
Hochul’s estimate came a day after the state lost in federal court Tuesday in a decision handed down by a judge in Utica declaring that the state must offer a religious exemption to health workers who decline to get vaccinated for moral reasons. About 10,000 hospital and nursing home workers have claimed such exemptions, the state said last week.
Hochul on Wednesday called the decision by U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd “disappointing," and that the process is already underway to appeal the order.
Unlike other vaccination mandates, the Hochul administration did not offer health workers who would not get vaccinated an alternative route to be tested for Covid-19 on a regular basis. The state’s August order, which took effect last month for most health care workers, had one out for vaccine-opposed workers: a medical exemption.
Of the 3% reduction in overall health care staffing levels in the state, Hochul said about 0.5% includes workers who are “still waiting” to get vaccinated and expect to be at some point in the near future.
Western New York showed one of the largest percentage increases in the state, from 81% a week ago to 87% today.
“I will be standing behind this mandate," Hochul said of the vaccine orders.
On Tuesday, New York State chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that school-age children who are eligible to be vaccinated should be required to do so in order to attend classes in private and public schools.
On Wednesday, Hochul said that her position is to “trust the parents to do the right thing” and get their children vaccinated. She said the state will monitor how successful that approach is over the coming weeks and months.