Rochester mulling change to vaccination policy for city employees after state mandate


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The City of Rochester is considering a change to its current COVID-19 vaccination policies as it pertains to city employees, a city spokesperson confirmed to News 8 Wednesday.

In a statement, the spokesperson said “The City of Rochester is currently evaluating whether to change its vaccination policy as it relates to its employees.”

The current policy does not require city employees to be vaccinated, but a change could be coming after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 mandate for New York State employees, and patient-facing health care workers at state-operated hospitals.

A memo issued this week by the U.S. Department of Justice paved the way for employers to have the legal right to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its employees.

According to Gov. Cuomo Wednesday, state employees who aren’t in health care will have the option to opt into a weekly COVID-19 testing program if they are not vaccinated. He said the patient-facing health care workers at state hospitals will not have the testing opt-out option.

The governor said this mandate will go into effect by Labor Day, and will impact the state’s approximately 130,000 employees.

Gov. Cuomo also urged local governments to require all employees to follow suit with mandates for vaccination or testing, specifically for areas with higher COVID-19 transmission rates.

One such area, the 14608 zip code on Rochester’s west side, was one of two dozen Upstate New York zip codes identified by state officials as an area currently with high COVID-19 transmission rates:

In a coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said there were no current plans to create a similar mandate for county employees at this time. He also said the county is not planning to adopt the new CDC guidance as it pertains to masking at this time.

“Right now we are not considering reinstating a mask mandate in our community,” Bello said Tuesday. “We don’t think we’re at that point right now, and I’m also not considering a mandate at all for vaccination for Monroe County employees. We do not believe those steps are necessary now and I don’t anticipate those steps will be necessary in the future, because I’m confident — beyond confident in this community’s ability to come together, and keep everyone healthy.”

The Monroe County coronavirus briefing came just a few hours after reports indicated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would backpedal Tuesday on its masking guidelines and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, according to a federal official.

For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.

Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers.

In May, the CDC further eased its guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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