President Joe Biden last week pledged to introduce a vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, along with all federal employees and government contractors.
In New York, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously announced a vaccine mandate, stipulating that all health-care workers — those working at hospitals and long-term facilities — must get a COVID-19 vaccine, with first doses due Sep. 27.
It has not gone over well with some workers.
Lewis County General Hospital, in Lowville, N.Y., will pause maternity services this month. Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer said up to 30 workers quit in protest over the coronavirus vaccine mandate.
“We’re unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24,” he said. “The number of resignations received leaves us with no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital.”
“It is my hope that the Department of Health will work with us in support of pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department,” Cayer said, adding, “We have a challenge to work through with the vaccination mandate.”
“We are not alone,” Cayer added. “There are thousands of positions that are open north of the throughway. We have a challenge to work through with the vaccination mandate. That’s why the word pause is so important to us.”
“‘We are not alone. There are thousands of positions that are open north of the throughway. We have a challenge to work through with the vaccination mandate.’”
— Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer
“If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County. We’ve had 6 resignations in our OB service and 7 individuals who are undecided,” he added.
Some 21 or 70% of those employees who have resigned are in clinical areas. The vaccination rate for the Lewis County Health System is 73% equating to 464 individuals, Cayer said. “Thumbs up to the team,” he said.
Lewis County, which has a population of just over 27,000 and is located north of Syracuse and south of Kingston, N.Y., has reported 2,626 cases of COVID-19, six hospitalizations, and 31 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Currently, some 63% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 53.8% have received two shots, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The president is toughening his stance on vaccine holdouts. Employers that don’t comply with President Biden’s rule, which is not yet in effect nor even formally written, will be subject to a $14,000 fine per violation.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said Thursday. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.”
The Lewis County Health System’s Cayer added, “We are not passing judgment on any single person who says it’s not right for them. We really are respecting that. We don’t want to lose anyone. We would like everyone to be vaccinated.”
(Elisabeth Buchwald contributed to this story.)