‘We have to reopen with a cautious eye’
Look around you. Do you see signs of change? Maybe your grocery store now lets fully vaccinated shoppers roam the aisles without a mask. Perhaps you have kids over the age of 12 who have received their first shot. Or maybe, like me, you recently hugged loved ones you hadn’t seen outside a computer screen for more than a year.
These are all signs of the state emerging from the darkest days of the pandemic. More than half of adult New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated and the statewide positivity rate is below 2 percent. And so Gov. Cuomo told New Yorkers this week: “We have to reopen. We have to reopen smart. We have to reopen with a cautious eye.” (May 17 press briefing)
I agree with him, especially his use of the word “cautious.” A lot is going to change in the weeks and months ahead, hopefully for the better. But now is not the time to relax all restrictions and send the entire state workforce back to office settings that may lack proper ventilation or adequate social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued new mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people that New York has adopted and we are all waiting to hear how that plays out at individual agencies. We do know that a lot of you will be wearing masks at work for the foreseeable future because they are still required in healthcare settings, correctional facilities and long-term care facilities. But we all know how inept some state managers can be and we must remain vigilant as each agency implements these new guidelines. As PEF members return to work, please stay in touch with your Health & Safety Department and flag any issues you see to HealthAndSafety@pef.org. We will post the latest guidelines as they evolve at http://www.pef.org/covid.
Also in this issue you’ll find an update on contract negotiations. Thousands of you joined a Telephone Town Hall on May 18 to get your questions answered and to provide the contract team with valuable information about what’s important to you as they work towards a new agreement. For those of you who could not attend, the survey is available online until May 23. We will continue to be transparent throughout the process and will settle for nothing less than the fair and just contract you deserve for your tireless work every day.
Finally, a word of thanks to the nurses in our union as we celebrate National Nurses Month. Your work on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 has been lauded again and again and we are determined to make the state reward you and all of PEF’s essential workers for your heroic efforts throughout the pandemic. PEF continues to lobby for legislation that would provide hazard pay, as well as end the hiring freeze that makes it so difficult for the state to accomplish all the important work that lies ahead.
Please continue to stay healthy and safe