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NEW YORK: New York Governor Kathy Hochul is considering employing the National Guard and out-of-state medical workers to fill hospital staffing shortages with tens of thousands of workers unlikely to meet a Monday deadline for mandated COVID-19 vaccination.

The plan, outlined in a statement from Hochul on Saturday, would allow her to declare a state of emergency to increase the supply of healthcare workers to include licensed professionals from other states and countries as well as retired nurses. Hochul said the state was also looking at using National Guard officers with medical training to keep hospitals and other medical facilities adequately staffed. Some 16% of the state's 450,000 hospital staff, or roughly 70,000 workers, have not been fully vaccinated, the governor's office said.

The plan comes amid a broader battle between state and federal government leaders pushing for vaccine mandates to help counter the highly infectious Delta variant of the novel coronavirus and workers who are against inoculation requirements, some objecting on religious grounds.

"We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones," Hochul said in announcing the plan. "I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care."

Healthcare workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated will not be eligible for unemployment insurance unless they are able to provide a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation, Hochul's office said.

It was not immediately clear how pending legal cases concerning religious exemptions would apply to the state's plan to move ahead and fire unvaccinated healthcare workers.

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