Gov. Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul wants the state’s health care workers to receive COVID-19 boosters.

ALBANY (TNS) — Health-care workers will need to receive their booster vaccination against COVID-19 within two weeks of eligibility, once a state board approves of the plan, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.

The governor is also directing that all visitors to nursing homes produce a negative test before entering the facility and that nursing homes will have to offer coronavirus tests to those visitors.

The policy changes were announced by Hochul during a COVID-19 news briefing Friday morning in Manhattan.

Before the new requirement for health care workers goes into effect, Hochul said, it must go before the Public Health and Health Planning Council on Tuesday. Hochul expects the council to approve the booster requirement swiftly and for it to go into effect immediately.

Health care workers would then have two weeks upon eligibility of the booster to get the shot. There wold be no test-out option, but medical exemptions would apply.

”You would want to make sure anyone taking care of you is fully protected,” Hochul said.

The goal is to “protect the integrity of our health care system,” Hochul added.

Previously, Hochul has acknowledged that vaccine mandates imposed on health care workers contributed to the staffing shortage that hospitals faced. She has said that the state was not facing a bed capacity issue, but rather a staffing capacity issue.

People who have been vaccinated and received a booster are still getting infected with COVID-19 because of the ultra contagious omicron variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shortened isolation periods in efforts to keep the work force up and running.

Statewide, about 1-in-5 staffed beds are available in hospitals, according to data from the state Department of Health.

Nearly all of hospital workers have completed their vaccine series, according to the health department, at a rate of 97 % statewide.

Similarly, in skilled nursing facilities, adult care facilities and hospice care, 98 % of staff completed their vaccinated series statewide. The numbers are slightly lower for certified home health agencies, 96 %, and licensed home care service agencies, 90 %.

Individuals are generally eligible for a booster shot about six months after a completed vaccine series.

As for visitors to nursing homes, the governor is directing the visitors to wear at least a surgical mask (as opposed to a cloth mask) in addition to having a negative COVID-19 test before entering the building.

”We’re getting a clear view,” Hochul said. “The visitors are a point of vulnerability for us.”

Visitors are encouraged to get tested prior to coming to the nursing home, although tests will also be provided by the facilities if needed, Hochul said. The governor did not say that if a person is fully vaccinated that they could forgo the test.

”This will spread like wild fire,” Hochul said.

It was unclear immediately whether the governor would execute any of the policy changes through executive order, or when the directives would go into effect.

Hochul and acting state health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said Friday that that youth hospitalizations continue to increase and outpace adult hospitalizations, which raises concerns. A majority of youth who are hospitalized are unvaccinated, according to the state’s data.

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