New York's first female governor Kathy Hochul, who took the reins in the Empire State after her predecessor and former boss, Andrew Cuomo, finally resigned, is showing the state's recalcitrant healthcare workers just how understanding and progressive she can be.
During a press briefing with reporters in Rochester Wednesday, Hochul told a group of reporters that she hoped all unvaccinated workers would meet Monday's deadline to get the jab, or lose their jobs.
For those who continue to resist - including nearly 20% of the state's hospital and nursing-home workers - they will be replaced. Possibly by foreign workers.
Faced with this, it makes sense to wonder how NY State, which has no immigration-related authority, could even credibly make such a threat? But Hochul says there have been conversations with the Department of State (albeit on a "limited basis") about the possibility of doling out emergency visas to foreign workers.
"To those who won’t, we’ll be replacing people. And I have a plan that’s going to be announced very shortly," she said.
"We’ve identified a whole range of opportunities we have to help supplement them."
Hochul said state officials were “working closely with various hospital systems to find out where we can get other individuals to come in and supplement places like nursing homes."
"We’re also reaching out to the Department of State to find out about visas for foreign workers, on a limited basis, to bring more nurses over here," she said.
Per the Department of Health's records, 19% of the state's hospital workers remained unvaccinated as of Sept. 15, and 18% of nursing home employees remained unvaccinated as of Wednesday.
Starting Monday, employers can fire unvaccinated workers who don't have a "valid medical exemption" (though employees who claim religious exemption are also immune until Oct. 12 due to a temporary injunction issued by a federal judge in Utica).
The plaintiffs in that case, almost all of them Catholic, oppose vaccines because they "employ aborted fetus cell lines in their testing, development, or production."
Though the US Conference of Bishops says it's okay for Catholics to take these vaccines if no alternatives are available, and Pope Francis has of course spoken out in favor of vaccination.
Circling back to the situation in New York, while Hochul is probably reveling in her first opportunity to play "hardball" - a game for which her predecessor was famous - New York health workers can probably rest easy - at least when it comes to the foreign worker threat.
The State Department couldn't process all those SIVs for Afghan collaborators in a timely manner. What makes you think they'll be able to dole them out to foreign workers, who probably also haven't been vaccinated. Where does Hochul think these foreign workers are going to come from? Europe?