Borough president endorses COVID-19 testing mandate for city workers

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (center) accompanied Mayor Bill de Blasio at a College Point vaccination hub in January, and now backs the city’s COVID-19 testing mandate for city workers. (Photo courtesy of Mayor’s office)

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards endorsed the city’s newly issued mandate that all municipal employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing ahead of the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is also calling on the private sector to enact vaccine and test mandates at all offices, workplaces and facilities.

“The science is clear: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from a vicious virus that has killed more than 8,600 of our fellow Queens residents and delivered an unprecedented blow to our borough,” Richards said.

Richards said the mayor’s announcement on Monday, July 26, is a “common-sense investment in the overall safety and ultimate recovery of our city, while also respecting reasonable accommodations on an individual basis.”

“We’ve come too far and lost too much in the fight against COVID-19 to not defeat this once and for all,” Richards said. “The vaccines are safe, free and effective.”

The de Blasio administration is mandating that beginning on Sept. 13, the first day of school, approximately 340,000 city workers, including teachers and police officers, will need to be vaccinated, or submit to weekly testing.

“We’re also going to reinforce for all city government workers starting on Monday, reinforcing clearly, if you are unvaccinated and you are a city employee, beginning on Monday, you must either wear a mask indoors at your work site at all times, or if you would prefer not to, you have to immediately go get vaccinated,” de Blasio said. “This is very, very clear.”

De Blasio said they will “unfortunately, be very tough” about the vaccine requirement.

“If a city government employee does not wear a mask indoors and they are unvaccinated there, unfortunately, there will have to be consequences because we have to take it seriously,” he said. “If someone’s unvaccinated, unfortunately, they pose a threat to themselves, but they also have a greater chance of spreading the disease.”

While the city’s infection rate hit an all-time low earlier in the summer as the vaccination rate increased, it has ticked upwards throughout July as the more infectious delta variant has become the dominant strain.

“These new requirements reflect our commitment to each other and the people we serve,” Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said. “In the tug of war between vaccines and the variants, we should continue to bet on the vaccines. But now is the time for our whole city to pull together and defeat delta.”

Approximately 4.9 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes over 10,000 doses from mobile vaccination sites, 280,000 doors knocked by canvassers and 20,000 doses given in-home to anyone who needs it. There have also been more than $80,000 in referral bonuses given to community organizations.

“We’ve come a long way from once being the ‘epicenter of the epicenter’ on COVID-19, but the pandemic is not over yet,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “We have a moral responsibility to take every precaution possible to ensure we keep ourselves, our colleagues and loved ones safe. Our city’s new testing requirement for city workers provides more peace of mind until more people get their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.”

More from Around New York