By Joseph Ax and Nathan Layne (Reuters) – New York’s governor on Monday urged businesses to turn away unvaccinated customers while Florida grappled with an influx of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, both sparked by the surging Delta variant that could lead to new restrictions on daily life. Transport workers in New York and hospital, nursing home, […]
Some U.S. states turn to vaccine mandates for key workers as COVID cases rise
By Joseph Ax and Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – New York’s governor on Monday urged businesses to turn away unvaccinated customers while Florida grappled with an influx of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, both sparked by the surging Delta variant that could lead to new restrictions on daily life.
Transport workers in New York and hospital, nursing home, and jail employees in New Jersey will face new requirements to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing, their governors announced Monday, while Denver’s mayor said inoculation would be mandatory for the city’s more than 11,000 employees.
Some local and county government are returning to mandating masks, and Louisiana will require them statewide indoors starting Wednesday. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken the opposite stance. He issued an executive order last week barring schools from requiring face coverings.
The steps represent the latest attempts by policy makers to spur reluctant Americans to get vaccinated as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus surges nationwide, infecting mostly people who are unvaccinated.
“If you are unvaccinated, the Delta variant should be a major concern to you and you should be worried about it,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a briefing.
Florida, whose governor has resisted mask or vaccine mandates, has one of the worst outbreaks in the nation and about one-quarter of the country’s hospitalized COVID patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Graphic on U.S. outbreak) https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR
Mary Mayhew, head of Florida’s hospital association, said the current surge sent COVID hospitalizations skyrocketing to 10,000 from 2,000 in less than 30 days, although deaths have remained well below the previous peak.
“It is a much younger population that is being hospitalized today,” Mayhew told MSNBC on Monday. At one Jacksonville hospital, the average age is 42, she said. “We have 25-year-olds in the hospital in intensive care on ventilators,” she told the cable network. “We’ve got to convince 25-year-olds, 30-year-olds, that this is now life-threatening for them.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also sounded the alarm, urging but not mandating bars, restaurants and other private businesses to require all customers be vaccinated before entering. The Democratic governor also said that vaccines could become mandatory for nursing home workers, teachers and healthcare workers if case numbers do not improve.
“I believe it’s in your best business interest,” Cuomo said. If I go to a bar and I want to have a drink and I want to talk to the person next to me, I want to know that that person is vaccinated.”
Cuomo also announced that all employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the trains and subways, and all the workers from his state for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the region’s bridges, airports, and tunnels, would need to be vaccinated by Labor Day on Sept. 6 or submit to weekly testing.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week. New Jersey added employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to its vaccination-or-test rule after active outbreaks in those facilities doubled in the past two weeks to 38.
Murphy said his current stance marked the “floor”, suggesting he could expand the scope of such mandates, and he encouraged private companies to follow his lead.
“There is nothing stopping any employer from implementing at least as rigorous a policy,” Murphy said. “The surest way to end this pandemic is through vaccination.”
The push comes on the heels of a decision by President Joe Biden to require millions of federal workers and contractors to show proof of vaccination or be subject to weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 tests.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)