In early tests for employer mandates in the United States, thousands of health workers in New York City were at risk of losing their jobs if not vaccinated.
Of the state’s 60,000 health workers, 90 percent have received at least one injection. Other employees have until 11:59 PM to take the dose.
“It’s almost like a game of chicken,” said our colleague Sharon Otterman, who reports on the pandemic in New York. “In the midst of a shortage of nursing staff, in the midst of a pandemic, the health system is at risk of shortage of additional staff. And on the part of health professionals, some are asking, “How bad is my fear of vaccines and would I be willing to quit my job because of it?”
In some states, such as California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois, workers have the option of getting routine testing if they choose not to be vaccinated. But in New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, health workers must be vaccinated to stay on the job until an exception is approved.
Experts see the vaccination mandate as a direct way for health professionals to prevent a new wave of infections and to encourage skeptics to vaccinate. But a vocal minority of New York health workers opposed the order because they were concerned about possible side effects or because they said it violated their personal liberties.
The COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be highly effective in preventing symptomatic infection, serious illness, and death. The side effects of the vaccine, if any, are minor and short-lived.
Employees in New York City are now prepared for a possible shortage of staff in healthcare facilities. Governor Kathy Hochul said last week she could declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard. He also presented the idea of recruiting temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland.
There have been at least eight lawsuits against the state mandate, and another mandate — for adults working in New York public schools — was delayed by a federal court last week.
However, healthcare employers are moving forward, asking vaccinated workers without approved exceptions not to come to work tomorrow, or giving their employees unpaid leave to think about.
“The question is, will they worship?” Sharon said. “So far, it looks like a lot of people came in at the last minute. The health system saw a sharp increase in vaccination rates over the weekend, with thousands vaccinated.
In many workplaces, the conversation about COVID is moving away from the alarm and toward a safer future.
But in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, nursing homes, and wherever frontline workers show up on a daily basis, this is happening in many ways by the end of 2020. In-depth scholarship is required. Employees who get the virus are at the mercy of customers who don’t.
Conditions are especially tense in countries with low vaccination rates like Louisiana.
“Every day is scary,” says Peter Nauton, a Walmart cashier and self-service host who lives in Baton Rouge, LA.
“If I tell people to wear masks or social distance at work, they go crazy and tell the manager,” Nauton says, “then I have to train. If you exercise too much, you will lose your job,” he said referring to the company’s breach management system.
Covid appears to have worked out well for Walmart’s bottom line: In fiscal 2020, the company had sales of $559 billion, up $35 billion from the previous year. However, labor activists say little of the money is used to protect the workforce, which in turn prolongs the pandemic.
In a May 2020 survey by United for Respect, a nonprofit advocacy group for workers at Walmart, nearly half said they came to work because they were sick or would do so out of fear of retaliation. In an April 2021 report, the group found that with Walmart’s more stable paid hospital policy, the company could prevent at least 7,618 cases of COVID and save 133 lives.