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New York becomes the first U.S. state to mandate boosters for health care workers

January 7, 2022, 5:43 PM UTC

New York will become the first state in the U.S. to require a COVID-19 booster shot for its health-care workers, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday. 

While the state will allow medical exceptions, there will be no test-out option. Health-care employees will be required to get a booster shot within two weeks of when they are eligible. The governor still needs approval from the state’s health planning council but expects “swift approval,” Hochul said during a Friday briefing.

She also announced new restrictions on nursing home visitors, who are required to wear surgical masks and have proof of negative test within 24 hours of visit. She said cases are starting to spread in nursing homes and “it’s a point of vulnerability for us.”

Health Commissioner Mary Bassett also warned of the rate of increase among pediatric hospitalizations, which is rising faster than among adults. She said the number of pediatric hospitalizations has increased eightfold among children under five years old. 

“It’s the rate of increase more than the numbers that have made us very concerned about these children,” Bassett said. 

‘Beginnings of a plateau’

Hochul said it was too early to call a COVID peak but the data over the last few days makes her “hopeful” that “hospitalizations should start seeing the beginnings of a plateau.” Bassett told New Yorkers to “expect a difficulty January” and that “things should be much better by February.”

New York state reported 82,094 new cases, down slightly from the over 84,000 cases reported Thursday. Hospitalizations rose 364 to 11,548. The state reported another 155 deaths.

She said the data on COVID hospitalizations may be skewing the actual severity of COVID hospitalizations. For example, only half of the people in New York City hospitals who tested positive for COVID were admitted because of COVID symptoms—the other half of hospitalized patients were people with mild or no symptoms who happened to test positive upon arrival.

For example, the 1,200 Covid cases at New York-Presbyterian Hospital are up 20% from this time a year ago, but about half of those people are admitted for other issues and happen to test positive for COVID and the other half are in the hospital due to severe symptoms of COVID.

Hochul also pushed back against Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who said he planned to defy the governor’s statewide mask mandates and called on school boards to issue their own policies on masks. She didn’t give specifics on what consequences could befall the Long Island Republican for evading state rule, but said that she has “the law of the state of New York behind me.” 

“Those who choose to defy that will understand there are consequences and fines and cessations of funding,” she said.

—With assistance from Luke McGrath.

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