NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A deadline is looming for state health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their job, and Gov. Kathy Hochul is taking steps to be ready in the event of staffing shortages.

As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, Hochul is preparing to sign an emergency order and making plans to activate the National Guard and bring in medical personnel from other states and countries if necessary as the midnight deadline nears for everyone working in a hospital or nursing home to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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“We have a right to defend our people against a global pandemic, and we are entitled to take all means necessary to do that, and that’s what I’m going to do. This is all about self defense. I’m here to defend the people of New York,” Hochul said.

COVID VACCINE

Hochul said that hours before signing an emergency order that will allow the state to license health workers from outside New York to fill spots in hospitals, nursing homes and long term care facilities vacated by employees refusing to get the COVID vaccine.

Hochul is standing firm on the vaccine mandate, saying it’s necessary to restore confidence in the state’s health network, especially after thousands died in nursing homes when her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, set policy.

“Can’t we just say that that is a basic right that everyone has, that they’ll be safe when entering health care facilities. Or you have your elderly parents or grandparents in a nursing home, that they’ll not get sick because of someone who’s charged with their care,” Hochul said.

It’s not clear how many health care workers will be needed, and where. According to the state vaccine tracker, as of Sept. 22, 84% of health care workers statewide had the vaccine, but it varies from place to place.

  • 87% in Manhattan
  • 85% in Queens
  • 77% in the Bronx and Brooklyn
  • 75% in Staten Island
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In the suburbs, it’s

  • 87% in Westchester
  • 84% in Nassau
  • 82% in Suffolk
  • 82% in Orange
  • 77% in Rockland
  • 65% in Dutchess
  • 56% in Putnam

“We sent out the alarm. We have a pool of individuals who want to help,” Hochul said.

Meanwhile, health care workers and politicians in Long Island rallied against the vaccine mandate. Many have already lost their jobs.

“I have been taken off the schedule Thursday because I said I was not taking the vaccine,” said Marilyn Welch. “It makes me want to cry. I gave 16 years, worked through the pandemic, came every day, faithfully worked… we had to be there, and now this is what they’re going to do to us.”

“No one asked us why, as health care workers, why we don’t want this vaccine. This vaccine has not had long term studies. We do not know the long term side effects of it, and I believe myself to be more afraid of this vaccine than I am of COVID,” said nursing home worker Lisa Townsend.

Although she called the health crisis “preventable” if people get the vaccine, the governor said some hospitals are planning to postpone elective surgery and other procedures.

Meanwhile, Northwell Health said it had fired about two dozen unvaccinated managers, and was beginning the process to “exit” the rest of the unvaccinated staff.

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Marcia Kramer