Governor Hochul calls religious exemption ruling on COVID vaccine mandate 'disappointing decision'

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A federal judge in Utica sided with 17 health care workers who object to New York State's vaccine mandate for health workers on religious grounds. Governor Kathy Hochul said it was a "disappointing decision" that has an "impact on our ability to help people."

Governor Hochul says they plan to appeal the ruling in the second circuit court.

On Tuesday, Judge David Hurd wrote, "There is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the 'reasonable accommodation' that must be extended to a medically exempt health care worker under 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection."

Hurd's preliminary injunction means New York will continue to be barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions.

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Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration began requiring workers at hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated on Sept. 27 and more recently expanded the requirement to include workers at assisted living homes, hospice care, treatment centers and home health aides.

The governor added on Wednesday that there is a 3% workforce reduction as a result of mandates. "But look how many people we've vaccinated," she said.

She said 85% of New York residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine but, "We've got to bump up the numbers among young people."

Breakthrough infections creeping up a little bit, Hochul said, and added "Let's boost the booster." She says the state has texted 450,000 residents to tell them its time for them to go get their booster shot. Hochul said she also asked the White House if they could make the shots more widely available "so people can be fortified heading into the winter season."

Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed. Since he started enforcing his vaccine rules, the number of people in the city going for a vaccine has jumped by 9%.

So far the city has inspected 31,000 restaurants and gyms with only 15 citations given to businesses violating his mandate.

"But we're making extraordinary progress, fighting back COVID and what we find today is that the policies that go right at COVID worked," de Blasio said. "Today is the one-month anniversary of the Key to NYC policy going into full effect."

For example, nursing home workers only had about 71% of their workers vaccinated back in August, but that has jumped to 97%.

Hochul said she met with nursing home family members who were at war with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They want a victim compensation fund and Cuomo had refused to even meet with them.

"I just approach this whole thing differently, that people deserve to know their government listens and actually cares and gives a damn about them," Hochul said.

Hochul said she's still not ready to mandate vaccines for all schoolchildren, that's it's up to their parents-but that mandate might still happen-after the FDA approves vaccines for younger children aged 5 to 11.

The governor also reminded residents to get their flu shots and in an effort to not just "talk the talk, but walk the walk" she rolled up her sleeve and got her flu shot on the spot.

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