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New York adopts vaccine mandate for state employees and health care workers

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New York state will follow California's lead and require state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Wednesday.

Beginning Sept. 6, all health care workers at state hospitals who directly interact with patients will be required to be vaccinated and will not have the option of forgoing vaccination for regular testing instead.

"That is a point of contact that could be a serious spreading event, and we want to make sure that those healthcare workers are vaccinated, period," Cuomo said, according to Reuters.

"We're working with our unions to implement this quickly and fairly, but we want to get it done by Labor Day, and I encourage all local governments to do the same," the governor added.

The order is similar to one issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who on Monday announced what he said was a "first-in-the-nation standard" requiring some 246,000 state employees and health care workers to get vaccinated or be regularly tested for COVID-19.

With COVID cases surging nationally because of the contagious Delta variant, public health officials have pushed for renewed coronavirus restrictions to combat the virus. The floodgates for mandatory vaccination opened earlier this week after the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday announced it would require its health care workers to get vaccinated. That same day, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said more than 300,000 municipal workers would be required to get vaccinated or be regularly tested by Sep. 13.

During an interview with MSNBC Tuesday, de Blasio blamed the vaccine-hesitant for the reintroduction of coronavirus restrictions and said mandates were the only appropriate response to people who will not be persuaded to take the vaccine.

"The anti-vaxxers are criminal at this point. What they are doing to this country is undermining our future," de Blasio said. "They're taking away the future of this country, because if we go backwards, if we go back to restrictions and shutdowns, this country's going to be in a horrible, dangerous place in terms of our lives, our livelihoods, our economy. And if we don't get it right on vaccination, we're going to lose a huge number of Americans."

"We tried voluntary," he added later. "You know, we could not have been more kind and compassionate as a country. Free testing, everywhere you turn, incentives. Friendly, warm embrace. The voluntary phase is over. We can keep doing those things. I'm not saying shut it down. I'm saying voluntary alone doesn't work. It's time for mandates because it's the only way to protect our people."

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that vaccinated people in areas of the country at high risk for spreading COVID start wearing masks again to mitigate spread of the virus. The CDC said that 63.4% of U.S. counties are at high risk of COVID transmission and that people living there should go back to wearing masks indoors in public.

The CDC noted that most new cases of coronavirus infections were among unvaccinated people, and the agency continues to emphasize the need for vaccination to protect vulnerable people from COVID.

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