The MTA hasn’t figured out a way to make sure its thousands of unvaccinated employees are getting mandatory weekly COVID-19 tests, officials said Thursday — 10 days after the transportation authority’s “vaccine-or-test” mandate went into effect.
Officials are instead ensuring compliance through “audits,” or spot checks of worker test results, MTA communications director Tim Minton said. Just 68.3 percent of MTA employees have told the authority they are vaccinated — compared to a 76.8 percent vaccination rate among all adult NYC residents.
“All MTA employees are required to either be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing as of October 4, and compliance is subject to audit,” Minton said in a statement. “Employees found to be out of compliance as part of the audit will be subject to appropriate follow up from their supervisors.”
Multiple MTA employees, however, said they’d seen no such audits. Workers are expected to upload their vaccination cards or test results to an internal database, but no one checks to make sure they have before they come to work.
“Nobody asked me, ‘Hey, did you upload everything?’ They said, ‘Please be sure to upload,’” said one employee, who requested anonymity. “It sounds like they’re figuring it out, and one of the issues they have is they don’t have enough people right now to do what they want to do.”
Workers reported a similarly lackadaisical approach on the Long Island Rail Road, where just 64 percent of workers are vaccinated — less than any other MTA subsidiary agency.
“They’re sending us emails telling us the rules, but they’re telling us that they have no direction, don’t know what to do and are doing nothing,” said one LIRR source. “If an individual wants to comply, he does. If not, nothing happens, at least for now.”
The MTA employs just under 70,000 people. Since March 2020, 173 authority employees have died from COVID-19, according to its official count. Anyone hired by the MTA after Nov. 14 of this year will be required to have been vaccinated for the virus.
TWU Local 100 president Tony Utano, who represents nearly 40,000 subway and bus workers, urged patience as the MTA figures out how to enforce the mandate.
“We’ve always supported COVID testing as a way to detect any asymptomatic cases in the workforce and we continue to do so. It’s a logistical challenge with such a large workforce by an important program,” Utano said in a statement.