Mandatory Vaccine Announcement Causes Confusion Among Home-Based Care Providers

Outgoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that all of the state’s health care workers are now required to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by Sept. 27.

The announcement specifically listed nursing home, “adult care,” long-term care facility and hospital workers as those who must receive vaccinations by that date. While adult care could pertain to them, home care and home health workers were not directly mentioned in the announcement.

That, in turn, has created confusion for hundreds of New York’s home-based care organizations.


The requirement will be applied strictly to everyone in health care with the exception of those with religious or medical exemptions, and those exemptions will be “limited,” according to the Governor’s Office.

“The announcement does not specifically state that home care workers will be covered by this requirement, and the Governor’s press release suggests that the requirement will only apply to healthcare workers that work in congregate care settings,” Emina Poricanin, managing attorney of Poricanin Law, wrote in a client alert Monday. “However, the vaccination requirement generally and broadly applies to ‘all healthcare workers,’ which could be interpreted to include home care workers.”

Currently, the state has reached a 75% vaccination rate among hospital workers, while adult care facility and nursing home employees come in at 74% and 68%, respectively.


The exact number of home-based care employees vaccinated is unknown, but the aforementioned numbers paint a picture of just how big of a deal this would be for New York’s in-home care providers and workers.

When the news first broke, the Home Care Association of New York State (HCA-NYS) was similarly unsure about what the announcement meant exactly. But for now, it does not believe that home care workers are included.

“The Governor’s press release does not mention home care, but HCA has confirmed with state health officials today that the new requirements announced will not apply to home care workers,” an HCA-NYS alert to clients Monday read. “While the announcement said the mandate was required for ‘all healthcare workers in New York State,’ it references imminent Section 16 Orders for hospitals, nursing homes and other long term care facilities (including adult care and other congregate care settings).”

State workers in New York were already notified that they needed to be vaccinated or would be tested weekly by Labor Day. But health care workers in state-run hospitals will no longer have the option to test out of the vaccination requirement under the new order.

For home care providers that work with government agencies, such as Medicaid-based home- and community-based service (HCBS) providers, that means the lines have been further blurred.

It is not yet clear whether these workers, who provide care for agencies that rely on government funding, would be required to be vaccinated or could still test out if they were unwilling.

The order comes amid a COVID-19 surge tied to the rise of the Delta variant across the U.S. New York and other states have already moved to require vaccination proof in order to get into some private businesses, such as gyms, restaurants and other indoor venues.

New York is currently experiencing just over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, way down from their peak of close to 18,000, but far higher than the few hundred it was averaging in June, according to data from the New York Times.

“The Delta variant is spreading across the nation and across New York — new daily positives are up over 1000% over the last six weeks, and over 80 percent of recent positives in New York State are linked to the Delta variant,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We must now act again to stop the spread. Our health care heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine.”

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