ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The New York State Department of Health unanimously voted to eliminate the religious exemption for health care workers statewide who opt-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The department of health also established a deadline that all hospitals and nursing homes must require their employees to be fully vaccinated, with the first dose received no later than Sept. 27.
This is not the first time the state dealt with debates over religious exemptions. New York previously mandated the measles vaccine and determined public health outweighed religious rights.
The move comes as the state works to curve the number of infections across the Southern Tier. Cases have been steadily rising for the past 10 weeks.
“The vaccine saves lives, and the reality is, we’ve got an incredible surge going on,” Dean of LECOM Dr. Richard Terry said. “About 99-percent of it’s all this delta variant, which has been reported to be about 60-percent more contagious than the previous Alpha variant.”
Dr. Terry emphasized that the decision to mandate the vaccine is one that’s being done for the greater good of society – one that could help stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s beyond you, it’s just you as kind of being selfish. It’s not just you, we’re not trying to impose anything on you,” Dr. Terri said. “How could we possibly ever justify a nurse or a doctor or a nurse’s aide potentially being infected with the virus and [then] infecting a vulnerable patient who may be in the hospital for cancer treatment or some other condition?”
18 News reached out to Gurthie Hospital and Arnot Health. Arnot Health released the following statement:
“With the NYS COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline approaching at the end of the month for all healthcare workers, Arnot Health is continuing our efforts to ensure we are compliant with the mandate. As we work together to ensure uninterrupted delivery of services to the community, we continue to be encouraged by the number of additional employees who are now obtaining vaccinations or have indicated that they intend to be vaccinated prior to the September 27 deadline.”
It’s still unclear if the requirement will lead to a healthcare worker shortage in the Southern Tier.