1,430 workers fired by NYC for shootings

NEW YORK — New York City has fired 1,430 workers who failed to comply with the city’s covid-19 vaccination mandate, the mayor’s office announced Monday.

The workers who lost their jobs represent less than 1% of the city’s 370,000 employees and are being laid off far fewer than expected before Friday’s deadline to get vaccinated.

The city sent notices in late January to as many as 4,000 workers, saying they had to prove they had received at least two doses of the vaccine or they would lose their jobs. Three-quarters of these workers had already been on unpaid leave for months, having missed an earlier deadline to get vaccinated in order to stay on the job.

Mayor Eric Adams’ office said hundreds of workers produced proof of their vaccinations or got vaccinated after being told they would be fired.

“City workers have served on the front lines during the pandemic, and by getting vaccinated, they are once again showing how they are prepared to do what it takes to protect themselves and all New Yorkers. “Adams said in a statement. “Our goal has always been to vaccinate, not eliminate, and city workers stepped up and achieved their assigned goal.”

Of the 1,430 laid off workers, about 64 percent worked for the city’s education department. The United Federation of Teachers, the union for public school teachers, said last week that around 700 of its members had been told they would be made redundant. The union joined others in filing a lawsuit to block the layoffs, but a judge ruled in favor of the city on Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by a group of Department of Education employees.

New York City has imposed some of the most sweeping vaccination mandates in the country, requiring nearly all city workers to be vaccinated and calling on private employers to ensure their workers are also vaccinated. Patrons of restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues must also show proof of vaccination to enter.

The United Federation of Teachers had reached an agreement with the city to allow its members to choose to remain on unpaid leave until September 5. But about 700 members chose not to extend their leave or provide proof of vaccination. The union argued the workers deserved due process, including a hearing before they were fired.

The federation did not comment on Monday.

Last week, New York City averaged about 1,700 new cases of the virus per day, according to state statistics. That’s down from nearly 41,000 cases per day at the peak of the omicron wave in early January, but still about 56% higher than when the vaccine mandate was announced in October.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS

When nurse Julia Buffo was told by her Montana hospital that she needed to be vaccinated, she responded by filing paperwork stating that the vaccines went against her religious beliefs.

She cited various verses from the Old and New Testaments, including a passage from the Book of Revelation that opponents of vaccines often cite to compare injections to the “Mark of the Beast.” She told her superiors that God is the “ultimate guardian of health” and accepting the vaccine would make her “accomplice in evil”.

Religious exemptions such as the one obtained by Buffo are increasingly becoming a workaround for unvaccinated hospital and nursing home workers who want to keep their jobs in the face of federal mandates taking effect across the country this week.

In some institutions, religious exemptions are invoked by staff and overwhelmingly endorsed by managers. This is a tricky question for hospital administrators, who struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels and are often reluctant to question the legitimacy of requests.

“We are not going to have a Spanish iInquisition with Torquemada to decide whether or not your religious exemption is granted by the Grand Inquisitor,” said Dr. Randy Tobler, CEO of Scotland County Hospital in Missouri, where about 25% of 145 employees are still not vaccinated and 30 of them have benefited from exemptions.

Tobler, who is vaccinated, said some employees had threatened to quit if they had to get vaccinated.

“For people who want to judge what we’re doing in rural America, I’d like them to come and put themselves in our shoes for a little while, just come and sit at the desk and try to staff the place” , Tobler said. .

At Cody Regional Health in Wyoming, about 200 of 620 staff have requested religious exemptions and most have been granted.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte last week pledged his support for “defending Montanans against discrimination based on their vaccination status” in an open letter to medical workers and urged those who have not been vaccinated to consider applying for exemptions.

And West Virginia lawmakers have put forward a proposal with healthcare workers in mind that would allow those who quit because their exemption was denied to collect unemployment.

Starting Monday, healthcare workers in 24 states – all but three of which chose then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election – will need to have received their first dose of the vaccine or an exemption. The mandate already took effect late last month in jurisdictions that have not challenged the requirement in court, although enforcement action will not begin immediately.

It affects a wide swath of the industry, covering doctors, nurses, technicians, aides, hospital volunteers, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other providers who participate in the federal Medicare program. or Medicaid.

Beyond the federal mandate, some hospitals and cities have imposed their own requirements. Military branches have their own mandates, but commanders have been reluctant to grant religious exemptions.

RURAL HOSPITALS

Although the reasons given for seeking exemptions vary, the distant connection of vaccines to fetuses aborted decades ago is often cited – lab-grown cell lines descended from these fetuses were used in the testing and manufacturing processes. . However, the vaccines do not contain fetal cells, and workers generally seek the exemptions without the support of major faiths and prominent religious leaders.

But as health care mandates take effect, hospital leaders acknowledge they see exemptions as a way to retain staff at a time when resources are already stretched thin.

“Our position is that we want everyone to be vaccinated,” said Brock Slabach, director of operations for the National Rural Health Association. “But we also believe that access to care is extremely important.”

Similar stories abound across the country.

At the 25-bed community hospital in McCook, Neb., about 20% of the 320 employees were unvaccinated. About 35 have applied for exemptions, and more are still deciding what to do. The hospital rejected some claims based on specious religious reasoning.

“If it’s a full essay, like an essay on the science behind why it shouldn’t be allowed, or a full essay on why a certain political party or political figure is an idiot, what we’ve seen, we don’t ‘Let’s not go with this because it’s not religious at all,’ said hospital president and CEO Troy Buntz. “We’re pushing them back, but I don’t know if other people are even reading the exemptions as much as they probably should be.”

In Mississippi, some hospitals have almost all of their employees vaccinated while others are between 50 and 70 percent, said Richard Roberson, general counsel for the state hospital association. Since the mandate was announced, he has received dozens of calls asking how the exemptions work.

“I don’t know how many there will be, but we’re in the heart of the Bible Belt. And so it’s something that’s very near and dear to everyone’s heart,” Roberson said.

And at the 14-bed Holton Community Hospital in rural Kansas, 28 of 193 employees were granted religious exemptions and one was granted a medical exemption. The mandate has helped boost staff vaccination rates from around 75% to almost 87%, but some young nurses remain hesitant due to disproved fears the vaccine could harm their fertility, CEO Carrie Saia said. .

Saia questioned the resistance to vaccines among medical staff, as they see every day that the people they care for who have the most serious consequences of Covid-19 are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. but “unfortunately…everything has become so political or polarized,” she said.

Buffo, the Montana nurse, said she was in a “state of terror” when the warrant was announced, fearing it could threaten her career. She wondered how much she was willing to sacrifice for her values, she said, and turning to the Bible strengthened her resolve to stand up to what she called the “insidious evil behind the vaccination campaign.” “.

But Marcella Dahl, a nurse at a primary care clinic in Sidney, Montana, said she thinks some people are abusing the exemptions and it’s alarming that some religious leaders are encouraging the practice.

“Half the people who say that don’t even go to church,” Dahl said. “I think that puts everyone at risk.”

Denominational opposition to vaccinations in the country has historically been limited to a few small denominations such as Endtime Ministries and the Church of the Firstborn. But during the pandemic, some more traditional preachers have spoken out against vaccines from the pulpit.

“It’s new, and it’s a problem,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If you are not going to be vaccinated and you are going to take care of frail people, elderly people, you should get out of health care.”

Information for this article was provided by Michelle L. Price and Heather Hollingsworth of The Associated Press.

Comments are closed.