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The deadlines for some workers to get vaccinated or get fired are beginning to roll in, and now 1,400 people at the largest health network in New York State are out of a job.
Northwell Health said Monday that 1,400 employees who refused to be vaccinated were fired, according to the New York Times. The system, which is based on Long Island, employs more than 74,000 people, meaning more than 98 percent of the system’s employees chose to get vaccinated.
“Northwell has taken a rapid, aggressive approach to move successfully toward full vaccination compliance while maintaining continuity of care and ensuring that our high standard of patient safety is not compromised in any way,” the company said in a statement.
All healthcare and nursing home workers in New York State—more than 650,000 people in total—were required by the state to begin their vaccination cycles (get at least one dose) by Sept. 27. The deadline resulted in a flurry of vaccinations, and state officials said last week that 92 percent of all healthcare workers had received at least one dose by the deadline.
The vaccine mandate in New York, as in other places, has been the subject of protests and lawsuits. Last month a group of Christian health care providers sued over the mandate’s lack of a religious exemption; a federal appeals court ruled last week that an exemption must be provided while the case moves through the court.
On Monday, a group of anti-vaccination protesters in Manhattan destroyed a mobile COVID testing unit.
Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of people subject to the mandate decided to get vaccinated, the overall healthcare system was already under massive strain and facing staff shortages. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency last week, which allows her to call in the New York National Guard to fill staffing vacancies or staff New York hospitals with medical professionals from other states.
Northwell isn’t the only hospital system to lose workers. On Monday, UCHealth in Colorado said it had fired 119 employees, or 0.5 percent of its workforce, for not getting vaccinated by the system’s imposed deadline. As with Northwell, a UCHealth spokesperson told Denver’s 9News that workers who had been fired could reapply for their jobs after getting vaccinated.
In California, where healthcare workers were required to get vaccinated or an exemption by Sept. 30, Sutter Health—which operates two dozen hospitals and more than 200 clinics in Northern California—said last week that unvaccinated workers would be placed on unpaid leave and could face termination if they weren’t vaccinated by Oct. 15, according to KCRA.
But healthcare workers have largely complied with the mandate. Three Sacramento-area systems, for example, now all have vaccination rates higher than the general population, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom—following a move by Los Angeles County last month—announced that eligible students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 along with other immunizations once the vaccine is fully approved for them.
“We want to get this thing done,” Newsom said. “We want to end this pandemic.”