300-400 religious exemptions at URMC

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are unvaccinated health care workers who still have their job tonight because they got a religious exemption to the mandate. One nurse told News10NBC it was a difficult decision to make.

Dawn Fox is a nurse in the labor and delivery unit at Unity Hospital. She submitted a religious exemption application and it was approved.

“The process was nerve-racking,” she said. “I have a pretty strong faith so I put a lot of trust and faith in God so I was hoping that it would get approved and thankfully it was.”

Fox is a born-again Christian and in her application, she wrote the vaccines “contains fetal cell line” which goes against “putting foreign substances” in her body.

In April, the Los Angeles County Health Department reported fetal cell lines were used in early stages for “proof of concept.”

But the report cited two pro-life groups who found the vaccines to be “ethically uncontroversial,” that lines from abortions were not used in the “development or production of the vaccines” and quoted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops saying people can get the vaccines in “good conscience.”

Still, URMC says more than 300 religious exemptions were filed before Monday.

The exemptions are good until Oct. 12, when a federal judge in Utica will either rule against them or make them permanent.

Today Governor Hochul said this: “There are not legitimate religious exemptions because the leaders of all the organized religions I have said There’s no legitimate reason and we are going to win that in court in a matter of days.”

Fox says it’s been uncomfortable at work and she got emotional recalling when Governor Hochul said people like her are replaceable.

“It’s pretty hurtful that we spent all this time working, these last 18 months and now we are replaceable. And that’s not true. We are not replaceable,” Fox said. “And it’s not where I imagined I would be as a nurse right now. I never imagined I would have to make a choice between having a vaccine that I don’t believe in and losing my career.”

California has a religious exemption to its vaccine mandate. New York does not. At the moment, every single employee in the Rochester Regional Health System is either vaccinated or has a religious exemption.