New York officials plan to turn to the National Guard to help keep nursing homes fully staffed after the state’s broad vaccine mandate kicked in for healthcare workers Monday. 

All nursing home and hospital employees were required to get at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. 

Healthcare workers in the state have the option of applying for a religious exemption to the mandate after a successful challenge over the rule lacking the exemption. 

The state over the weekend released a comprehensive plan to address potential staffing shortages in long-term care and other healthcare facilities if enough workers opt out and are terminated as a result. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Monday said she would deploy medically trained National Guard members, in partnership with the federal government, to assist local health and medical systems if shortages occur. As of last week, 77% of staff at all nursing homes in New York were fully vaccinated. 

“I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities,” Hochul said. 

It would not be the first time state officials have turned to the National Guard to help staffing shortages in long-term care facilities during the pandemic. Multiple states, including Minnesota, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Texas and Nevada, all called in the National Guard to help nursing homes respond to the public health crisis. 

Hochul is also considering signing an executive order, if necessary, to declare a state of emergency that would allow all qualified healthcare professionals licensed in other states or countries to practice in New York. 

Those who did not were expected to be terminated by the end of the day. Workers in different settings, including home care and adult care facilities, are required to be vaccinated by Oct. 7.

“We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” Hochul said.