Whether vaccinations should be required for public workers is a local government decision, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said, pointing to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.
Nevertheless, Cuomo urged local government to take the rise in new COVID-19 cases across the state seriously as hospitalizations due to the virus have once again risen above 500 patients.
"I would urge them to take significant action now," Cuomo said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced all city workers would be required to take the vaccine or be tested weekly. The mandate was shortly followed by a similar move in California by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Vaccination mandates for government workers, especially public-facing employees, comes as vaccination rates have slowed and as the highly contagious delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in New York.
"We should be taking precautions," Cuomo said. "You know you have government employees who interact with the public all the time. One person who is infected could see 50 people, 100 people a day."
Broadly speaking, vaccine mandates will likely run into opposition from public worker labor unions. At the same time, Cuomo did not embrace a mandate for the thousands of state workers in New York.
"Statewide, we don't run many hospitals,” Cuomo said. “We don't run schools. We don't police departments. We don't run fire departments. The public facing agencies tend to be local agencies."
Cuomo's office on Monday announced 55.2% of eligible New Yorkers have completed the vaccination series. There are now 546 people hospitalized due to the virus.