While new cases in New York City are nowhere near what was seen during the height of the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio is reflecting growing concern over the delta variant and taking aim at unvaccinated city workers.
Tuesday morning, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that five NYPD officers are hospitalized, "some quite serious condition, and all unvaccinated."
All those who have not been vaccinated will have to submit to weekly COVID testing starting in September, de Blasio announced Monday. Commissioner Shea said, "We are going to comply with the order and we are going to move forward."
The rule is expected to affect about 340,000 city employees, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.
And it is timed to coincide with the start of the school year.
In addition, starting next week all unvaccinated city workers must wear masks indoors or they will be sent home and not be paid.
"This is about our recovery. This is about what we need to do to bring back New York City," de Blasio said. "This is about keeping people safe."
But some of the unions representing city workers balked at the announcement, saying the city couldn't impose the requirement without negotiations.
"New York City is a union town, and that cannot be ignored," said Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37 of AFSCME. DC 37 represents about 100,000 New York City employees across several departments.
So far, about 70% of city residents have been vaccinated, but that number is lower for members of several city workforce groups.
The latest percentages of fully vaccinated workers show 43% for the NYPD, 55% for the FDNY, and 60% for teachers and hospital workers.
Area hospitals are also starting to implement vaccine mandates.
Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey is among them.
So is RWJ Barnabas Health, one of the Garden State's biggest health care providers, even though they say they have not yet seen a surge in cases.
And last week, New York-Presbyterian announced a vaccination mandate for all employees starting September 1st.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to answer a question about whether he will require state employees to be vaccinated.
Speaking at a news conference at Yankee Stadium Monday, Cuomo urged localities to consider vaccinating public-facing government workers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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