The lifting of COVID-19 states of emergency in two states — and the rescission of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in one of the country’s largest cities — effectively ends many pandemic regulations affecting senior living and care providers there.
Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene rescinded a private-sector vaccine mandate, making it optional as of Nov. 1. Adams cited an 86% vaccination rate across the city in making the change in policy.
The decision follows a decision by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to allow a COVID-19 disaster emergency executive order adopted in November to lapse on Sept. 12, effectively ending the provisions originally adopted to address the omicron variant and coordinate steps to ensure adequate hospital capacity throughout the state.
LeadingAge New York President and CEO James Clyne told McKnight’s Senior Living that the executive order also requires the state to support localities in vaccination efforts and provide some contracting flexibilities.
But Clyne said he is more focused on an executive order declaring a disaster emergency due to healthcare staffing shortages that is set to expire Sept. 27. That order continued workforce flexibilities, including allowing out-of-state healthcare workers to practice in New York; extended registration deadlines and waived registration fees for retirees wanting to return to the workforce; provided flexibilities for clinical labs to increase testing capacity; and expanded the scope of practice for non-nursing staff.
“We will advocate for continuing of EO 4, knowing that staffing challenges remain a top concern for long-term care providers,” Clyne said. “EO 4 gives healthcare providers more flexibility on how healthcare staff can be used.”
New York’s actions follow a Sept. 8 announcement by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on ending the COVID-19 state of emergency, effective Oct. 31. That action includes the states’ COVID-19 vaccination requirements for long-term care workers, including those in assisted living, as well as workers in private healthcare, announced in August 2021.
Inslee stated that vaccinations will remain a condition of employment for most state agencies, adding that employers can choose to maintain their own employee vaccination requirements.
In announcing the rescission of all remaining pandemic emergency proclamations and the state of emergency, Inslee said that the country has come a long way in the past two years in “developing tools that allow us to adapt and live with COVID-19.”
“Ending this order does not mean we take it less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live,” Inslee said. “I can’t express enough how grateful I am for all the healthcare workers, public health teams and other frontline workers who have helped save thousands of lives during the past two years and will continue to support our communities in staying safe and healthy.”
Washington had the first reported case of COVID-19 in the nation.
The Washington Department of Health’s face-covering order will remain in place for healthcare and long-term care settings. Inslee indicated that he will seek help from the state legislature in maintaining protections for workers who choose to wear masks in their workplaces.