First, New York state required health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Now they’ll have to get boosted, too.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that her administration will require health care workers to get a booster shot within two weeks of becoming eligible, billing it as a first-in-the-nation requirement on the state level. The mandate will take effect Tuesday, when the state Public Health and Health Planning Council is expected to approve it. Workers can from any available booster, though the state’s preference is Moderna or Pfizer.

It builds on the state’s existing vaccine mandate for those in the industry, which allows for medical exemptions but otherwise does not have an option to submit to regular COVID-19 testing to avoid the requirement.

Hochul called the booster mandate a critical step to fighting serious cases of COVID-19 among health care staff.

“We've already seen what's been happening in our health care environments,” Hochul said during a news briefing Friday in Manhattan. “Staff is getting sick, they're leaving. We need them to get well. We need them to have the best fortification they possibly can, and that means getting a booster shot as well.”

Hochul’s mandate comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations across New York exceeded 11,500, though the state’s new caseload has shown early signs of peaking in recent days.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced in August that his administration would require health care workers to get fully vaccinated. It took effect after Cuomo resigned, with workers required to get at least their first shot by September 27th.

Of the 1 million health care workers in the state, about 36,000 were let go or placed on leave since the mandate first took effect, according to data from the state health department. It’s unclear how many of those placed on leave have returned.

New York City, meanwhile, has a vaccination mandate for all private and city workers. So far, that requirement has not extended to booster shots, though Mayor Eric Adams said his administration is weighing the possibility.

Asked Friday what she would say to health care workers who may be reticent to get a booster, Hochul said the mandate is the state’s best tool to ensure the workers’ protection against the virus.

“We think it’s worth it to just ask them to do the right thing one more time,” Hochul said.

Hochul also announced new requirements for visitation at nursing homes, congregate settings where aging residents are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

Those who are visiting will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of the visit, Hochul said. They will also be required to wear at least a surgical mask or stronger in hopes of decreasing the spread of the omicron variant.

“The last thing we want to do is create a situation where visitors are coming in and now getting people that they love – or their neighbors in the next room – sick from the pandemic,” Hochul said.

Update: The state Public Health and Health Planning Council approved Gov. Kathy Hochul's booster mandate for health care workers at a hearing on January 11th, 2022. Concerns were raised over the implementation of the policy by members during the two-hour meeting, with some urging the state health department to consider the impact on the policy decision to the health care community.