Eleven county governments in the state's Finger Lakes region on Wednesday urged New York officials to reconsider the booster shot mandate for health care workers amid a staffing shortage in parts of the state.
The county governments proposed to health officials and Gov. Kathy Hochul in a letter to allow for a test out option for fully vaccinated workers, pointing to a "tenuous situation" for hospitals and health care networks.
"While we fully support the importance of vaccinations to help protect our communities against COVID-19, our hospital systems are facing severe staffing shortages coupled with increasing patient loads caused by the Omicron surge," the county officials wrote.
The letter comes after the governor announced the booster shot requirement amid the wave of omicron infections in New York, which in recent weeks has led to record-high daily case totals and rise in patients who have COVID-19.
Though considered a less severe form of the virus, being fully vaccinated and boost can protect against the worst outcomes, health officials have stressed. But because of the omicron variant being so contagious, a fast-spreading virus can sideline health care workers if they contract, further straining a health care system.
New York health officials have also moved to limit some elective procedures and surgeries in order to free up staffed bed space in some upstate hospitals. Many hospitals have struggled with staffing problems after some workers were removed following a vaccine mandate.
"We understand the policy goal to increase booster administration and protect critical frontline healthcare workers from infection by ensuring they have the maximum protection possible through vaccine and booster administration," the letter states. "Our concerns are the potential negative impacts to an already beleaguered healthcare workforce at a time when our communities can least afford it."