Officials from 10 upstate counties released a letter Thursday raising concerns with the impending COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers in New York and urged Gov. Kathy Hochul and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to modify it. 

At issue for the counties — Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Steuben, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates and Schuyler — is the shrinking number of health care workers and resignations that are due to take effect on Sept. 26, a day before the vaccination requirement is in effect.

"As I am sure you are both aware, all levels of health care are already experiencing significant staffing shortages cause by a myriad of factors," the letter from the counties to Hochul and Zucker stated. "The potential mass exodus of health care staff in late September, coming several weeks after children return to school, coupled with the continued increase in COVID-19 across the state caused by the proliferation of the delta variant is a recipe for crisis throughout the entire health care system."

The county officials urged Hochul and Zucker to modify the vaccination mandate, one that would rely on more testing of those who do not receive the COVID-19 shots. The letter acknowledges the complexity of the issue, especially as public health officials seek to vaccine as much of the population as possible and those in critical fields like health care. 

Smaller counties, especially those in rural areas, already have struggled with access to health care and health care workers, a problem prior to the pandemic and made worse by the crisis. 

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month announced in one of his final official acts a vaccination mandate for health care workers in New York, a move that dovetailed with a mandate for all state workers to be vaccinated after Labor Day. 

Hochul, who took office last week, is also working with school leaders in New York to put a vaccine mandate in place for education personnel.