NY delays state worker office return and vaccine mandate

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York has delayed its requirement that state employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly tests by more than a month to Oct. 12, the same day telecommuting workers are now scheduled to return to their offices.

In-person state workplace rules were scheduled to restart this past Tuesday, and the vaccinate-or-test mandate was to go into effect this week for about 130,000 state workers.

But Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office of employee relations quietly outlined the changes in an internal memo sent Friday.

The memo also broadens mask mandates for vaccinated workers. Masks must now be worn in state facilities located in places with local mask mandates or in areas with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19 as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have to make the workplace itself a safer environment,” Hochul said at a press briefing Wednesday.

Hochul spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays said in an email the administration wanted to make sure government workplaces have flexibility as state employees continue to safely return to in-person work.

More than 90% of state employees are working either full- or part-time in person.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the mandate in late July amid a rise in coronavirus cases linked to the delta variant, shortly before he resigned.

Cuomo last month also announced COVID-19 vaccines would be mandatory for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes, giving them until Sept. 27 to receive their first dose. Workers at home care agencies, hospices and adult care facilities have until Oct. 7, according to Hochul.

State public employees unions had mixed reactions to the mandates, with some labor leaders saying they were a matter for negotiation.