Some states turn to vaccine mandates for key workers as COVID cases rise

A poster alerting for the wearing of masks is seen on a 42nd Street subway entrance in New York City.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Joseph Ax and Nathan Layne

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.

Cuomo 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.

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.”


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