All MTA workers will be required to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or agree to be tested weekly by Labor Day. The transit agency now joins the growing list of state and city organizations that will require vaccines or tests in the ongoing effort to fight the rising number of COVID cases.
“Transit workers have carried the city and the region on their backs, if we’re going to bounce back stronger than ever, we all need to step up, get our vaccinations, protect ourselves, our families and the public at large,” Janno Lieber the MTA’s recently appointed Chairman and CEO, said Monday.
Last week the head of the union representing subway and bus workers said he would disagree with a vaccine mandate for his workforce, but after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Monday, he dropped his opposition.
“We strongly believe everyone should get vaccinated,” Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano wrote in a statement. “It’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Anyone who has concerns, should ask their doctor for advice. We will continue to urge members to get the shot and will work with the MTA to ensure testing options are widely available at work sites.”
The increase in COVID cases in New York and around the United States is due to the delta variant, which is highly transmissible. Unvaccinated Americans make up almost all of the recent COVID hospitalizations and deaths, while studies have shown the vaccine can help prevent severe illness. Cuomo also announced that nine additional vaccination sites would be opened—including ones at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. state office building in Harlem and New York State Department of Labor office in Hicksville—and that testing sites would roll out in September.
A spokesperson for NJ Transit declined to comment on whether the agency would require vaccines or regular testing, and instead said it would follow guidance from the state. It also declined to say what percentage of its workforce has been vaccinated, insisting it’s “several thousand” of the 11,000 employees.
NJ Transit continues to offer free roundtrip tickets to and from any vaccination site in the state.
The MTA has not provided a breakdown of specific vaccination rates by agency, but reported at its last board meeting that 65-70% of workers have received at least one shot either at an MTA run clinic, or somewhere else.
The Port Authority of New York and Jersey has more than 7,000 employees and is also now required to comply with the new vaccine or regular testing mandate in New York state. But it left open the possibility that its employees in New Jersey wouldn’t have to follow the same protocols.
An email to the Port Authority requesting the latest vaccination rates and clarity on whether its New Jersey employees would be required to get the vaccine or regular testing was not returned.
The Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Rick Cotton said he’s working with the unions to encourage the unvaccinated to get the shot and the agency is “redoubling [the] effort to encourage employees to get vaccinated.”