Cuomo mandates vaccines or testing for NYC transit workers
NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said workers in New York City's airports and public transit system will have to get coronavirus vaccinations or face weekly testing, but he stopped short Monday of mandating either masks or inoculations for the general public, saying he lacks the legal authority to do so.
The Democrat urged New York's bars and restaurants to adopt a policy of only serving vaccinated people and said that more hospitals should require workers to get vaccines. He said that imposing mandates, though, would require an act of the Legislature to restore emergency powers that have expired.
“The Legislature would have to come back, they’d have to pass a law to do that. So I don’t have any legal authority to mandate,” Cuomo said of a mask mandate. "The best I can do is say I strongly recommend that they do that.”
Cuomo announced that the vaccinate-or-be-tested policies already covering thousands of municipal employees would be extended to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and for Port Authority employees working in New York facilities beginning Labor Day. The policy will cover more than 70,000 workers, most of whom are already vaccinated.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said they will continue to urge members to get the vaccinated and will work with the MTA to make sure testing is widely available.
Shortly after Cuomo spoke to reporters, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “strongly recommending” that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors when not at home, but also declined to make masking mandatory.
An average of nearly 2,300 people have been testing positive for COVID-19 daily across New York state over the past week, up from around 300 new cases per day in late June. Almost two dozen of the state’s 62 counties met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for masking up indoors.
Health officials say the delta variant of the coronavirus accounts for 72% of new cases in New York City.
Infection rates have been rising nationwide. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines recommending that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is fueling infection surges.
The governor and mayor have resisted reimposing mask mandates, instead stressing vaccination as the key to fighting the pandemic. De Blasio announced last week that city employees would have to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing. Cuomo later announced a similar rule for state employees.
Citing new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.
New York City already requires face coverings in public schools. Asked why he was not mandating citywide indoor masking, de Blasio said, “Everything we’re doing is based on data and science, but it’s also based on strategy. The overwhelming strategic thrust is vaccination.”
The mayor said city health officials believe the right balance is “to heavily focus on vaccination, to continue to climb the ladder, put more and more vaccine requirements in place, and to give a very clear message to all New Yorkers strongly recommending mask usage regardless of vaccination status.”
Hill reported from Albany. Associated Press writer Mallika Sen contributed from New York.
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