Thousands of hospital workers could be fired under N.Y. vaccine mandate

New York's state mandate ordering health care workers to get the COVID vaccine went into effect Monday at midnight.

Some hospital networks including Northwell Health have already fired more than two dozen health care workers. Others will have 30 days to get a COVID vaccine or lose their jobs.

Officials say 16% of the state's hospital workers, or some 83,000 people, are not fully vaccinated. About 8% haven't gotten a single dose, putting them at risk of termination.

Steven Corwin, the president and CEO at New York-Presbyterian Hospitals, one of the largest systems in the country, said he believes a mandate is needed to get everyone fully vaccinated.

Before its own vaccination deadline last week, 30% of staff were unvaccinated. But after the deadline, less than 1% refused the shot and resigned.

"So out of 48,000 employees and affiliated physicians, we have less than 220 that have not chosen to get the vaccine," Corwin told CBS News' Errol Barnett.

At Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, about 5% of the staff, roughly 400 people, are unvaccinated and on leave.

"We stopped elective inpatient surgeries. We stopped some of our outpatient patient visits. We stopped ICU medical transfers from other referral rural hospitals. ... We've asked for more time to work on strategies with the state to ensure that as many people as possible get vaccinated," said Tom Quatroche,  the president and CEO of Erie County Medical Center.

At a press conference Monday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to send National Guard troops to short-staffed hospitals like ECMC.

But some health care workers are suing the state over the mandate, including nurse Deborah Conrad.

"I'm wearing the same exact PPE I've worn the whole pandemic and it's always kept myself and patients safe. Why has that changed?" she said.

The Western New York nurse said she still feels uncomfortable taking the shot despite medical data that has been released that the vaccines offer strong protection against severe illness.

"Are you prepared to lose your job?" Barnett asked.

"A career that I've loved for almost 20 years, I am prepared," Conrad replied.

In New York City, the vaccination mandate for teachers is expected to take effect later this week. The teachers' union says 97% of its members are vaccinated and the city says roughly 7,000 education workers were vaccinated over the weekend.

Editor's note: This article and the headline have been updated to reflect the latest vaccination numbers from New York state. About 16% of New York health care workers are not fully vaccinated; 8% haven't had a first dose as required by the state mandate.

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