New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday announced that the state will not enforce a mandate that required health care workers to get a COVID-19 booster shot by Monday. The decision comes at the backdrop of concerns about staffing shortages, state health officials said. 

The mandate was announced in January when coronavirus cases were rapidly rising in New York. The deadline for getting a COVID booster was set at February 21. 

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“As Governor, I am committed to protecting the health and safety of all New Yorkers, and with the holidays coming up, we must continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Governor Hochul had said. 

However, on Friday, state health commissioner Mary Bassett said that the decision to drop enforcement of the mandate reflects the reality that booster rates remain far below 100% in nursing homes and hospitals.

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“The vaccine and booster are critical tools to keep both healthcare workers and their patients safe, and we continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible,” said Bassett.

Data, as per AP, suggests that nursing homes and hospitals in New York have vaccinated nearly all employees. 

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“While we are making progress with 75% of staff receiving or are willing to receive their booster, the reality is that not enough healthcare workers will be boosted by next week’s requirement in order to avoid substantial staffing issues in our already overstressed healthcare system,” she added.

“That is why we are announcing additional efforts to work closely with healthcare facilities and ensure that our healthcare workforce is up to date on their doses.”