December 4, 2021

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Some unvaccinated New York health care workers facing job loss over vaccines

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In August, the New York Department of Health issued a mandate ordering all health care workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27. As of Friday, 84% of hospital staff statewide were vaccinated. 

On Saturday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement that in preparation for a potential staffing shortage in hospitals and other health care facilities, she is prepared to sign an executive order to declare a state of emergency to allow health care professionals from other states or the National Guard to practice in New York. 

“We are still in a battle against COVID … and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” Hochul said in the statement, encouraging unvaccinated staff to agree.

Health care workers who do choose to leave their jobs or are terminated because of their refusal to do the conscientious thing, like help save lives and get the vaccine, are not eligible for unemployment benefits, the state’s labor department said. 

New York isn’t the only state doing the right thing by requiring the people who take care of us when we’re sick to get vaccinated. California’s Public Health Department had demanded that its more than 2 million health care workers be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 or face being fired. 

But mandates aren’t stopping online groups such as Nurses4Freedom, helmed by Heather Knapp, 35, a registered home health nurse in Riverside, California—and the unofficial face of “Karen”—from rallying against all vaccines. 

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” Knapp told NBC News. “Our organization is anti-mandate,” Knapp says. She says her rallies are intended to simply raise awareness about the safety of vaccines. Hmmmmm. 

Health care workers in New York have until Oct. 12 to apply for a religious exemption. That’s when a federal judge will consider the cases. And to that, Hochul told the congregation of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Sunday, “God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women — the scientists, the doctors, the researchers — he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, ‘Thank you, God, thank you!’”

Those choosing to remain unvaccinated put countless patients at risk. According to NPR, Erie County Medical Center Corporation in Buffalo, New York, is preparing to suspend elective inpatient services, reduce hours at outpatient clinics, and may have to temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers if some 400 of its employees do not get vaccinated—about 10% of its workforce. Lewis County General in Lowville, New York, said it will pause maternity services after dozens of staff members walked out in opposition to the vaccine mandate. 

The truth is, at some point doctors nationwide could begin refusing to treat those same unvaccinated health care workers who are choosing to leave their jobs rather than adhere to the mandate. A doctor in Alabama and another in Florida both announced they would not be treating unvaccinated patients. 

“We are physically tired as a whole, me included, and we are emotionally exhausted … I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t see someone pass away,” Matthew Trunsky, a pulmonologist, and director of the palliative care unit at a Beaumont Health hospital in southeastern Michigan told The Washington Post. Doctors have had enough. We’ve all had enough.



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