Coronavirus Update NY: Vaccine mandate looms for more health care workers

Coronavirus update for New York State
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Home health care agencies across New York are bracing for possible staffing shortages as another COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect.

Workers in adult care facilities, home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, and hospice care have until Thursday night to get their first COVID shot.

There are about 250,000 home health aides statewide, and it is estimated that one in five is not vaccinated. That means as many as 50,000 will not be able to work Friday.

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Lynette Williams, a home health aide, said she will not get the vaccine under any circumstances.

"They need us," she said. "Why are you taking our rights and their rights for being taken care of now?"

Many agencies are now prioritizing high risk patients and scheduling overtime for vaccinated workers, but experts point out sending in replacements isn't that simple.

"If you have a person who is a bariatric patient that's 300 pounds, they are matched with an aid that can help them safely transfer from the bed to the wheelchair, walker, toilet, to the tub," Home Care Association of New York President Al Cardillo said. "You have to find that proper match."

Cardillo says a recent poll of some of its members revealed that nearly 11,000 home health aides say they will voluntarily resign, along with close to 900 nurses, each with a case load of about 20 people. That means more than 17,000 patients would be impacted.

"Since the pandemic, the influx into the workforce has been diminished to a trickle coming in," Cardillo said.

The fear is that unlike other industries where vaccinations went up just before the deadline, that won't happen here. Experts point out that most home health aides make minimum wage and will simply find other jobs."

On what will most likely be her final day on the job, Williams said it's in God's hands now and that she's thinking only of her client.

"They get so excited I'm there to take care of them," she said. "That makes my day and their day even better."

Meantime, a vaccine mandate may not be far behind for the NYPD and New York City firefighters.

About 60% of these first responders are estimated to be vaccinated, and up until now, weekly testing has been an option for unvaccinated members.

Both NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro say they are in favor or making vaccines mandatory, and they've hinted that it's coming.

"I would be supportive of a vaccine mandate," Shea said. "I've said that from day one. I think that the science the health the emergency situation that we're in, it makes sense."

Nigro said New York's Bravest, who don't hesitate to run into burning buildings, should have no qualms about getting the shot.

"I think it's time people have had a long time to think about this, for our members to be mandated," Nigro said. "We're out there treating the public, their families deserve it, they deserve it and the public deserves it."

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But on Thursday morning, the city's largest police union said it has not been advised of any changes to the policy.

The Police Benevolent Association says while it supports vaccines for its members, it will fight any mandate.

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