© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Zeldin Joins Health Workers Rallying Against Vaccine Mandate

Lisa Townsend, physician's assistant at Long Island State Veterans Home, said she is more afraid of the vaccine than she is of coronavirus. N.Y. Gov. hopeful Lee Zeldin looks on.
J.D. Allen
/
WSHU Public Radio
Lisa Townsend, physician's assistant at Long Island State Veterans Home, said she is more afraid of the vaccine than she is of coronavirus. N.Y. Gov. hopeful Lee Zeldin looks on.

Republican Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin, who’s campaigning for governor, rallied with healthcare workers Monday before they are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by midnight or risk losing their jobs.

Zeldin lashed out at Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul after she vowed to call in the National Guard and other out-of-state healthcare workers to replace those who refuse to get vaccinated.

“You're either vaccinated, and can keep your job, or you're out on the street,” he said.

Zeldin is vaccinated. A handful of people wearing scrubs behind him said they are not immunized.

Lisa Townsend, a physician’s assistant at Long Island State Veterans Home, wants the option to submit weekly COVID tests, like unvaccinated teachers do in the state.

“This vaccine has not had long term studies that know the long term side effects of it. I believe myself to be more afraid of this vaccine,” Townsend said. "I believe myself to be more afraid of this vaccine than I am of COVID.”

Townsend also wants her religious exemption from the vaccine to be protected. Hochul’s order denies exemptions like Townsend’s. It’s one of many parts of the vaccination requirement tied up in court.

Nurses against a New York COVID-19 mandate at a rally on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.
Credit J.D. Allen / WSHU Public Radio
/
WSHU Public Radio
Nurses against the vaccine mandate.

Mario Mattera, a Republican State Senator, said healthcare employees were given limited ability to negotiate the vaccine mandate through their unions.

“This isn't a state of emergency, like a hurricane… This is a state of emergency that people get fired, and not going to have unemployment insurance. I am a union leader. This is a disgrace to all Americans," Mattera said.

The state labor department says unvaccinated workers who are terminated from their jobs will not be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. A Republican-led bill introduced in Albany would restore those jobless benefits.

State Senator Alexis Weik from Long Island, who attended Monday's rally, introduced the bill.

“Our healthcare workers cannot receive unemployment, because they are being forced to resign. They're not quitting. They're still here, they're fighting. They're not here today because they have nothing else to do," Weik said.

Northwell Health, the state’s largest private employer and healthcare provider for over 2 million New Yorkers, has already fired about two dozen "unvaccinated leaders" who have refused to get the COVID-19 shots required under a mandate, according to Newsday.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.