New York’s Health Care Worker Vaccine Mandate Repealed
On October 4, New York’s COVID-19 healthcare worker vaccine mandate was formally repealed by the New York State Department of Health. The decision ends a more than two-year long COVID-19 policy and marks another tangible sign that New York has exited the public-health-crisis phase of the pandemic. Health care providers will no longer be required to track the vaccination statuses of their employees.
The emergency rule, adopted in August 2021 as 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61, directed hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, adult care facilities, and other identified health care entities to “continuously require” employees to be fully vaccinated. While it established a medical exemption, it did not account for religious beliefs, bringing forth challenges in court. The regulation caused conflict between labor and management over the implementation of its vague exemption standards. Its repeal will offer welcome clarity to employers and employees alike.
Even prior to the repeal, the Rule showed signs of weakening. A Department statement issued in May of this year declared that the state would not take any new actions to enforce the Rule. Less than six months later, 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 is officially repealed.
Despite the political and social controversies surrounding vaccine mandates, from the state’s perspective, repealing the rule is a matter of practicality. The Department argues that, because COVID-19 does not yet have a fully established seasonality as does influenza, tracking employee vaccination statuses for both viruses would pose logistical challenges for providers. The continued evolution of the virus, variables surrounding future transmission rates, and anticipated changes to federal vaccine recommendations were also cited as evidence of the Rule’s impracticality.
The Department has stated that the repeal allows health care providers to make their own decisions regarding vaccine and mask mandates for employees.
As with all employment law matters, the attorneys of our Labor & Employment Law Practice Group are available to provide counsel. Contact Joseph DeGiuseppe, Jr. at (914) 287-6144 or email@example.com.