NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Long Island News

Hochul Says Religious Exemption Not A Legitimate Excuse To Avoid A COVID Vaccine

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wears a necklace with the word "vaxed" during an event in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.
Mary Altaffer
/
Associated Press
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

Governor Kathy Hochul said she does not believe health care workers in New York should be able to cite a religious exemption to avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The governor, who held a briefing on the status of the coronavirus in the state, was reacting to a court decision temporarily upholding the rights of some health care workers to refuse the vaccine on religious grounds.

A federal judge in Utica Tuesday issued what is known as a temporary restraining order against the portion of the state’s vaccine mandate that does not allow for religious exemptions.

Hochul said her health department deliberately excluded religious exemptions from the mandate, which requires all health care workers to be vaccinated by September 27. She said while the state’s attorneys will be arguing the case in court on September 28, her personal opinion is that a religious exemption is not a legitimate excuse.

“I’m not aware of a sanctioned religious exemption from any organized religion, in fact they are encouraging the opposite,” Hochul said. “Everybody from the Pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated.”

Hochul said New Yorkers have the right to receive health care without worrying that the person attending them might be unvaccinated and more likely to spread the virus.

The governor, saying that she is concerned about the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, also imposed new mask mandates for day care and child care centers. Everyone aged 2 years old and up will have to wear them, effective immediately, regardless of their vaccination status.

“If you’re watching the national news, the scariest announcements coming out every morning are the number of children contracting COVID,” said Hochul, who said a vaccine won’t be available for those under 12 for several more months.

Masks will also be required at state run health related programs, including mental health and addiction services.

Hochul said she is also authorizing the state’s 50,000 EMT’s to be able to administer the vaccine to avoid an expected shortage of workers when the booster shots become availed later in the fall. She said that could add at least 2,000 more staff able to offer doses.

The governor is leaving the details of how to distribute the booster shots to local health officials, who complained earlier in the pandemic that they were left out of the process in favor of a state run mass vaccination system. Hochul criticized those policies, enacted by her predecessor, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August over a sexual harassment scandal.

“And now that we’re not mandating that it was all state run facilities and only state run employees, we are actually involving the local individuals who were shunted off to the side, there are a lot more people engaged in this,” she said.

Hochul said local health departments, who have said they can run vaccinations better than the state, are on notice to carry out the task competently. The state is providing $65 million to aid the efforts.