11 New York counties ask state to reconsider booster requirement

A New York requirement for healthcare workers to receive COVID-19 booster shots is drawing concern from 11 counties in the state's Finger Lakes region, according to Spectrum News.

In a Jan. 12 letter posted by the publication, the counties urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to reconsider the newly announced rule amid the latest surge. 

"While we fully support the importance of vaccinations to help protect our communities against COVID-19, our hospital systems are facing severe staffing shortages coupled with increasing patient loads caused by the omicron surge," the letter said. "We have significant concerns that if even a handful of healthcare workers are dismissed for their refusal to receive the booster within the designated timeframe, it could exacerbate an already tenuous situation."

Ms. Hochul announced the booster mandate Jan. 7,  pending approval from the New York Public Health and Health Planning Council. The council adopted the mandate Jan. 11, citing the importance of booster doses to maximize protection against infection as well as the increased challenges and urgency for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities.  

The state mandate allows for some medical exemptions but does not include a test-out option.

In their letter, the counties said they would favor a test-out option for fully vaccinated healthcare workers who do not receive a booster shot within two weeks of eligibility on a temporary basis "until the omicron wave subsides and the hospital capacity crisis abates."

New York announced its initial vaccination requirement for healthcare workers in August 2021, months before announcing the booster requirement. The mandate allows exemptions for medical reasons. However, religious exemptions to the state mandate were rescinded in November 2021.

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