For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been hesitant to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for everyone, hoping that encouragement, convenience and persuasion would be enough.
But with two million adult New Yorkers still unvaccinated and the Delta strain threatening the city with a third wave of cases, City Hall is trying a new tactic: Requiring workers at city hospitals and health clinics to get vaccinated or get themselves vaccinated. get tested on a weekly basis, the mayor’s spokesman said Tuesday.
The new policy, announced Wednesday by Mr. de Blasio and going into effect in early August, doesn’t go nearly as far as San Francisco’s announcement last month that all municipal employees must be vaccinated. Still, Mr De Blasio’s first step is to require city workers to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test as a condition of showing up for work, city officials said. It will likely affect more than 10 percent of the more than 300,000 people who work for the city government.
It remains unclear whether City Hall will extend this approach to other city employees — police officers, teachers, bus drivers — or limit it to those who work in hospitals and clinics.
“It’s all about the safety of a healthcare environment,” Bill Neidhardt, the mayor’s press secretary, said of the policy.
The new policy applies to employees at the 11 city-run hospitals, including Bellevue and Elmhurst, as well as nursing homes and clinics. The policy will also cover some employees of the city’s health department.
There are still two million adult New Yorkers who have yet to receive a dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
When the initial crush of adults eager to get vaccinated began to wane in late April, the city tried to knock on people’s doors and offer shots in environments ranging from subway stations to museums. And yet that hasn’t done much to kick-start vaccinations.
Every day, on average, fewer than 10,000 New York City residents choose to take their first shot. Vaccinating more adults is an urgent concern, as the Delta variant has already pushed the number of cases to nearly 600 per day in the past week, more than double the daily average at the end of June.
And while nearly 54 percent of city dwellers of all ages are fully vaccinated — some five percentage points more than the national average — there are some neighborhoods with much less protection. Vaccination rates in the Bronx and Brooklyn are below the national average. Black neighborhoods and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in particular tend to have lower vaccination rates, with only 35 percent of residents fully vaccinated in some zip codes.
Hospital staff are generally slightly more highly vaccinated than the general population. In New York City, 70 percent of hospital workers are fully vaccinated, according to state data, compared with an adult vaccination rate of nearly 65 percent. Hospital staff in the Bronx are vaccinated at a significantly lower rate — 61 percent.
The city’s largest private hospital system, NewYork-Presbyterian, announced last month that workers would be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, making it an outlier among the city’s major hospital systems.
But it has yet to enforce that policy, allowing employees to apply for exemptions until August 1 and September 1 to get the first chance. According to Alexandra Langan, a NewYork-Presbyterian spokeswoman, more than 70 percent of workers are vaccinated.