SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — All employees who work with patients at Upstate University Hospital, Central New York’s largest employer, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of what Governor Andrew Cuomo calls “dramatic actions” to stop the surge of the Delta variant.

“The court has upheld and the Department of Justice just did a memo,” Governor Cuomo explained, “that says an employer can mandate an employee get vaccinated. We’re saying, in state hospitals, where the state is the employer, the front line workers must be vaccinated. Period.”

The governor made it clear that testing is not an alternative for hospital workers.

The President of Upstate Medical University, Dr. Mantosh Dewan, told NewsChannel 9 in June that more than 90% of the workforce is vaccinated. An Upstate spokesperson said Wednesday the current rate is approximately the same.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office confirms to NewsChannel 9 that Labor Day is the deadline.

In addition to Upstate, the mandate applies to:

  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • SUNY Downstate
  • Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook
  • Helen Hayes Hospital
  • SUNY College of Optometry
  • Montrose Veterans Home
  • St. Albans Veterans Home
  • Oxford Veterans Home
  • Batavia Veterans Home

The mandate on hospital employees goes a step further than the option Governor Cuomo is giving other state workers: get vaccinated or agree to weekly testing.

It’s not clear how many of Upstate’s workers will fall under the “patient-facing” category. It will include doctors and nurses, but may expand to food service workers, room cleaning staff and clerks who check in patients.

The state hasn’t explained how Upstate is expected to prove each employee is vaccinated or what happens to workers who have a religious or medical exception from vaccinations.

Cuomo admitted he expects pushback, some of which is already coming from the union that represents nurses at Upstate.

In a statement to NewsChannel 9, New York State Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence, wrote, “PEF encourages our members to be vaccinated. The vaccines are proven to prevent the deadly COVID virus and they create a safer workplace.  We agree with other unions that a vaccination mandate must be bargained between labor and management.”

Early this month, St. Joseph’s Hospital was the first in Syracuse to require its workers to be vaccinated or risk loosing their jobs.

A spokesperson for Crouse Hospital said that his team is monitoring the situation, but didn’t say if a similar mandate was being considered.