NYS orders hospitals and nursing homes to order their employees to get vaccinated

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There’s a new state rule about vaccines for people who work in private hospitals and nursing homes. Those employees must have at least their first shot by Sept. 27.

The state isn’t ordering individual doctors, nurses and aides to get vaccinated. It’s ordering the hospitals and nursing homes to order their employees to do it.

At another anti-masking, anti-vaccine protest outside Strong Hospital, we met nurse Merle McDonald. She was at the last protest too.

"We don’t want our government, we don’t want our employer, we don’t anyone telling us what we can put onto or into our bodies," McDonald said.

McDonald is a registered nurse at Highland Hospital, which is part of the URMC system.

We asked her what she thinks will happen if she doesn’t get vaccinated by the end of September.

"Me? I’ll be fired. We’ll all be fired for it!" McDonald said.

URMC said it’s "awaiting further instruction from NYS Department Health to understand the details of the requirement and the impact this may have on our operations. As of today, 86% of our health care workers are confirmed or reported as vaccinated."

Rochester Regional Health says it "will comply with the vaccine mandate Governor Cuomo announced today. We will be working on the implementation of this mandate as we learn more about it in the coming days. Currently, 75% of RRH employees are vaccinated."

The governor’s office says 75% of hospital and adult care workers statewide are vaccinated.

Stephen Hanse is the president of the Health Facilities Association representing more than 400 nursing homes in New York.

Brean: "Are they going to follow Order 16? "

Hanse: "Absolutely. Absolutely."

California and Washington have already made the same or similar order. Oregon is next.

In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said only employers could mandate the vaccine.

"It comes back to the law on who is the employer?" Cuomo said at the time.

The state order is not directed at private citizens. It’s directed at their employers.

Brean: "So it’s a little bit of an end-around. The state is not telling people to get vaccinated. The state is telling employers — your employees must be vaccinated."

Kim Harding, Nixon Peabody, labor and employment attorney: "I would never accuse the state of engaging in an end-around but it is an interesting wrinkle."

Brean: "If a person decides not to get vaccinated by the deadline and then that person loses their job, can they sue because of that?"

Harding: "The answer in law is always ‘It depends’, but generally speaking if it’s just a person who is electing not to be vaccinated, yes the person can be terminated and there are very limited legal rights."

Hanse thinks the order should apply to every health care center — like doctors’ offices and urgent cares, but he repeated that his members will follow the order.

Brean: "What if they don’t? Is there a penalty?"

Hanse: "That’s what we’re waiting to see also. There doesn’t seem to be a testing requirement. So that is yet to be seen."

In July, the governor ordered state employees to be vaccinated by Labor Day. He could do that because the state is the employer.