The outgoing governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, including staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities such as adult care, nursing homes and other congregate care settings. The order requires healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Monday, September 27. Accordingly, the state’s Department of Health is obliged to issue Section 16 Orders requiring all hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes, to come up with and implement policies mandating employee vaccinations. The only exceptions to these mandates are for those with medical or religious reasons. So far, three in four of New York’s approximately 450,000 hospital workers, 74% of its approximately 30,000 adult care facility workers, and 68% of its approximately 145,500 nursing home workers have completed their vaccine series. The order comes at a time when the state is battling the Delta variant of Covid-19. The variant has resulted in new daily cases up over 1000% in the last six weeks. According to an article in Home Health Care News, this mandate has been a source of confusion for home-based care providers.
The article in Home Health Care News states that because home care and home health workers were not specifically mentioned in the order -unlike adult care, hospital, long-term care facility, and nursing home workers-, there has been some confusion as to whether the order applies to them. The order seems to imply that it is targeting health care workers working in congregate settings. Nevertheless, although this may be the main target of the order, the order explicitly targets “all” healthcare workers.
One clue as to the applicability of the order is the reference to Section 16 Orders, which apply to hospitals, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes, that is, congregate care settings.
The Home Care Association of New York State is of the opinion that the order does not affect home-based care providers and workers. The organization sought clarity from the Governor’s Office, and they confirmed that the order does not, in fact, apply to home-based care providers and workers.
Already, healthcare workers know that if they are not vaccinated by Labor Day, they will be subject to weekly Covid-19 testing. The new mandate removes the option of weekly testing. There is still a lack of clarity whether home-based case workers and providers will have the option to get tested for Covid-19. Many home-care providers rely on government funding. It may be that the same orders that affect healthcare workers in congregate settings will affect home-based care providers who work with agencies who derive funding from the government. Perhaps, applying the precautionary principle, home-based care providers should take the view that the orders will, in effect, apply to them, and try to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
For people concerned about risks of catching Covid-19, the order is good news, letting them know that their loved ones are safe in hospitals, long-term care facilities such as Skylark adult day care, and nursing homes.