“They Haven’t Really Enforced It”: MTA Has Trouble Complying With New Vax-Or-Test Mandate

It’s been over a week and a half since the state required all MTA employees to either be vaccinated or submit a weekly negative COVID test result, and the agency appears to be having a hard time complying with the requirement.

The MTA’s overall vaccination rate across the agency stands at 68%, as of Wednesday, although the agency said it could be as high as 75% because workers may not yet have uploaded their vaccine cards to the agency’s system.

The agency also appears to be not checking whether unvaccinated workers have undergone a weekly COVID test. On October 4, the mandate went into effect, but sources tell Gothamist the MTA hasn’t checked for negative results from them or their co-workers.

“They haven’t really enforced it,” Sarah Cadet, an MTA property protection agent, who works in security at a train yard in Queens, said. Cadet said she’s not vaccinated, but does get tested on her own every Sunday at an urgent care clinic. Still, she said no one at the MTA has ever asked for proof of a negative result.

Transit worker Cadet said if she was forced to get the vaccine as a requirement of employment, she’d have to think about it. “I might have to take a leave of absence in the beginning,” she said.

To date, 173 MTA workers have died from COVID, the highest rate of any single city or state agency.

The agency within the MTA that has had the hardest time boosting its vaccine rates has been New York City Transit, which includes subway and bus workers. In May, just 38% had been vaccinated; by August, it had nudged up to just 44%; and as of this Wednesday, it’s up to 65%.

The vaccination rate amongst New Yorkers, age 18 and older, who have had at least one dose is 85.2%, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a statement the MTA said workers who don’t comply with the state guidelines could be subject to an “audit.”

“Employees found to be out of compliance as part of the audit will be subject to appropriate follow up from their supervisors,” MTA spokesperson Tim Minton wrote in a statement. He didn’t elaborate on what the punishment might be for not complying or how often the MTA is checking whether workers are vaccinated or have received a weekly test.

The agency notes it has 138 on-site testing facilities and reports positivity rates have gone from about 18 positive cases in August everyday, to 15 in September, and now to an average of 10 a day in October.

The agency is also requiring all new hires after November 14th to be fully vaccinated.

Governor Kathy Hochul, who pushed back the vaccine or test requirement from Labor Day to October 4th, said her office will help the MTA comply with the mandate.

“Governor Hochul’s top priority is protecting New Yorkers, and we stand ready to offer any support necessary to help the MTA keep employees safe and deliver top tier service to riders,” spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays wrote in a statement.

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