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State lawmakers push for CDC to give new guidance over healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccination requirements

State Senator Ed Rath and his Republican colleagues are urging the CDC to provide new guidance so unvaccinated health care workers could return to work

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Since the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers went into effect on August 26, 2021, guidelines have changed. 

Over the summer the CDC changed exposure and isolation guidance. 

Now Republicans in the legislature want the CDC to address vaccine requirements for healthcare workers. 

"It's absolutely worth addressing," said NYS Senator Ed Rath. "We have to look at every scenario, every industry, and the overall impact on our state."

Thousands have been terminated from their jobs because of the requirement. As of the most recent data from New York State on April 16, 17,762 health care workers were have been let go across the state. That represents 1.7% of the total healthcare workforce. 

Another 14,000 resigned or were furloughed. 

In Buffalo, ECMC fired 106 health care workers. At Catholic Health 200 were let go. Kaleida terminated about 5% of their workforce, 300 people.

All three health systems are facing staffing shortages.

"Even the governor herself almost a year ago acknowledged the healthcare worker shortage," Rath said. "There's a way in which we can fix that, and that's by lifting these very difficult restrictions and regulations on vaccine requirements for healthcare workers."

 2 On Your Side reached out to the Governor's office to see if lifting this mandate was on the table. 

Hochul's office released a statement saying in part, "We lost a lot of people who had been healthcare workers who had trained for this. They're concerned about their own health, their own safety, ultimately, but the vast, vast majority did stay."

The state also reiterated its plans to spend over 21 billion on healthcare worker bonuses, increased wages, and new infrastructure in the coming years. 

"It's not surprising New York State in many ways tries to solve many of its problems with financial incentives," Rath said. "Financial incentives, which I might add, could put us in a long-term, financially difficult situation when our state budget has increased 20% over the last two years."

Rath says he and his colleagues are calling on the CDC to provide the guidance because unless Governor Hochul relinquishes her emergency powers, the legislature can't do anything. 

"Right now, in many ways, we are excluded from the process, and it's just the Governor as well as her Department of Health," Rath said. "We need checks and balances transparency and accountability in government."

The state department of health responded to an inquiry from 2 On Your Side and reiterated that healthcare workers are required to have several vaccines to work in a facility. Those vaccines include Influenza, MMR, Hepatitis B, Chicken Pox, Meningococcal, and TdaP. 

WGRZ reached out to Democratic lawmakers for this story. Senators Sean Ryan and Tim Kennedy were unavailable for an interview. 

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