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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a virtual press conference on Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. (AP) New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a virtual press conference on Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. (AP)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a virtual press conference on Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. (AP)

By Tom Gaughan April 6, 2022
Caroline Paterno
By Caroline Paterno April 6, 2022

Did New York Gov. Kathy Hochul fire 35,000 health care workers?

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• A vaccine mandate established by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and extended by Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s successor, required health workers to have at least one COVID-19 shot by Sept. 27, 2021.

• After the mandate was issued, 3% of the state’s health care workers retired, were furloughed, resigned or were fired, according to the state Health Department. That works out to 33,982 employees. The actual number of health care worker firings due to the vaccine requirements was 10,555. 

Even with a months-long easing in the coronavirus pandemic, vaccine mandates remain controversial in some quarters. 

Rob Astorino, a Republican candidate for governor of New York, accused the woman he wants to oust, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, of firing some 34,000 health care workers for not complying with vaccine mandates.

In a tweet posted Jan. 20, Astorino said of Hochul that "none of your mandates have helped beat ‘this surge.’" Among other criticisms, Astorino’s tweet blamed Hochul for "firing 34K HC workers."

A closer look shows that Astorino has exaggerated this figure.

Under Hochul’s predecessor as governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, New York State health care workers were placed under a vaccine mandate. The mandate required health care workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27, 2021. 

On Oct. 5. Hochul — who had been elevated to governor following Cuomo’s resignation — extended the mandate to apply to workers in mental health and disability services. Under the new mandate, health care workers in these facilities had until Nov. 1 to get at least one vaccination. 

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The Astorino campaign said its tweet was based on New York State Health Department data showing that 33,982 health care workers were inactive because of the vaccine mandate. "We believe Rob's claims are completely accurate," Phil Oliva, a spokesperson for the Astorio campaign, told us in an email.

However, the Astorino campaign’s reading of the numbers was faulty.

The New York State Health Department told PolitiFact New York that "approximately 3% of health workers were furloughed, terminated, or opted to resign or retire." Data released by Hochul’s office on Oct. 13 showed that the number of health care workers who had left their jobs was 33,982, but that the number who had specifically been fired was 10,555. That’s less than one-third of the total loss in health care workers.

In public comments on Oct. 13, 2021, Hochul reiterated that the number of lost jobs were greater than just those who were fired. "It includes people who were terminated, resignations, people deciding to retire, and people who are on furlough waiting to see the outcome of litigation" against the mandate.

In addition, it was up to employers, rather than the governor, to determine what happened to employees who did not comply, said Erin Silk, a spokesperson for the New York State Health Department. "Those plans could include termination, but that was not required," Silk said.

Our ruling

Astorino said Hochul’s record included "firing" 34,000 health care workers.

About 34,000 health care workers in New York state did leave their job after the vaccine mandate was enacted. However, less than a third of those could be described as being due to "firing." About two-thirds of the lost jobs stemmed from resignations, retirements, or furloughs by employees waiting to see how litigation against the mandate played out.

We rate the statement Half True.

Our Sources

Rob Astorino, tweet, Jan, 20, 2022

Kathy Hochul, COVID-19 briefing, Oct. 13, 2021

lohud, "NY COVID-19 vaccine mandate reduced health care workforce by 3%. Here's the biggest impact," October 14, 2021

Newsday, "3% of health care staff in state out of jobs over COVID vaccine mandate, Hochul says," October, 13, 2021

New York State, "Governor Cuomo Announces COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate for Healthcare Workers," August 16, 2021

New York State, "Governor Hochul Expands Vaccine Mandate to Include Staff in OMH and OPWDD Hospital Settings," October 5, 2021

Email interview with Erin Silk from the New York State Health Department,  March 16, 2022

Email interview with Phil Oliva from the Rob Astorino for Governor Campaign, February 9, 2022

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Did New York Gov. Kathy Hochul fire 35,000 health care workers?

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