Noting that the coronavirus crisis is likely to last “for months,” NYC mayor Bill De Blasio has empowered the city’s health commissioner to order “any educator, healthcare worker, or first responder employed by the City of New York, New York City Department of Education, and the New York City Health + Hospitals Corporation who the Department determines presents a danger of infection to others, in accordance with accepted public health guidelines or information about the contagious period of COVID-19 shall submit to testing for COVID-19 by the Department or a medical professional.
The new directive is aimed at city workers, including first responders, health care workers, and educators, who physically interact with the public.
“Under this order,” announced Mr. De Blasio, “the Commissioner has the ability to determine, case by case, specific actions and if the Commissioner determines that anyone fits the criteria and is a risk, they can be required to get a coronavirus test.”
“Anyone who refuses testing must comply with a quarantine, and there will be specific employment consequences if they refuse testing.”
The new order buttresses a range of new anti-corona policies instituted by the City of New York in recent days. It is not known whether New York State agency personnel, for example the MTA (which runs and staffs New York City’s sprawling multimodal transportation network) currently compels its workers to be tested.
It will be interested to see whether this kind of mandatory testing order is replicated in the private sector. Many private companies, including FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and now Uber and even AirBNB (through the company’s network of hosts) have and maintain a wide range of touch points with the public, and compulsory testing may be perceived by management as a prudent step to take to ameliorate the risk of inadvertently spreading the virus. The successful implementation of any such policy is predicated by there being sufficient testing capacity, which at the time of this writing remains a pressing issue in the United States.