It’s been more than a week and a half since the state required all MTA employees to be vaccinated or submit a weekly negative COVID test result, and the agency appears to be struggling to meet the requirement.
The MTA’s overall vaccination rate across the agency is 68%, as of Wednesday, although the agency said it could go up to 75% because workers may not have yet loaded their vaccination cards into the system. the agency.
The agency also does not appear to be verifying whether unvaccinated workers have undergone a weekly COVID test. On October 4, the mandate went into effect, but sources tell Gothamist that the MTA has not verified the negative results from them or their co-workers.
“They haven’t really enforced it,” said Sarah Cadet, an MTA property protection officer who works security at a train yard in Queens. Cadet said she is not vaccinated, but tests herself every Sunday at an urgent care clinic. Still, he said no one at the MTA has ever asked for a negative test result.
Transit worker Cadet said if she was forced to get vaccinated as a job requirement, she would have to think about it. “You might have to take a leave at first,” he said.
To date, 173 MTA workers have died from COVID, the highest rate of any state or municipal agency.
The agency within the MTA that has had the hardest time increasing its vaccination rates has been New York City Transit, which includes subway and bus workers. In May, only 38% had been vaccinated; in August, it had risen to 44%; and as of this Wednesday it is up to 65%.
The vaccination rate among New Yorkers, ages 18 and older, who have received at least one dose is 85.2%. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a statement, the MTA said that workers who do not meet state guidelines could be subject to an “audit.”
“Employees found to be in non-compliance as part of the audit will be subject to appropriate follow-up by their supervisors,” MTA spokesman Tim Minton wrote in a statement. He did not elaborate on what the punishment could be for failing to comply or how often the MTA checks to see if workers are vaccinated or have received a weekly test.
The agency notes that it has 138 testing facilities on site and reports that positivity rates have gone from about 18 positive cases in August every day, to 15 in September, and now to an average of 10 per day in October.
The agency is also requiring all new hires after November 14 must be fully vaccinated.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who delayed the vaccine or testing requirement from Labor Day until Oct. 4, said her office will help the MTA meet the mandate.
“Governor Hochul’s top priority is to protect New Yorkers, and we stand ready to offer any necessary support to help the MTA keep employees safe and provide world-class passenger service,” wrote spokeswoman Hazel Crampton- Hays in a statement.