Healthcare workers wait to see whether religious exemptions will be upheld

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Next week a federal judge will decide whether the religious exemptions filed by healthcare workers to avoid Gov. Kathy Hochul’s vaccine mandate will hold up. If they don’t, an already short-staffed and stressed local healthcare system is going to get worse.

Locally, those healthcare workers who filed and were approved for a religious exemption have been able to continue working if they agree to weekly COVID-19 testing and the proper use of PPE but if a court rules in favor of New York State next week, that will change.

Corey Meyer has been a homecare RN with Rochester Regional for the last 5 years.

“It just gives me more autonomy with my home patients, I get to know them better through home care,” she tells News10NBC.

She travels to care for 25 patients per week.

“They try to keep our areas as close to where we live as possible,” she explained.

But with two dozen local nursing homes and rehab centers closed to new patients because of staffing concerns, the demand for home care is increasing.

“They are very, very short on nurses so she [boss] actually just asked us yesterday if anyone would cover down in Watkins Glen next week,” Meyer said.

Meyer is not vaccinated, she currently has a religious exemption so, she’s on pins and needles for next week’s court decision. If the court rules in NYS’s favor and determines religious exemptions will not be allowed, she will quit.

“I’ve mentioned it to my patients because they get used to us and a lot of times they’re like ‘I don’t want to see any other nurses’…so, I’ve had some tell me that they’ll just end services and go without a nurse,” she told News10NBC.

The federal judge hearing the exemption case said he would make his ruling by Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The New York State Health Department says about 7,000 hospital workers and 3,000 nursing home workers state-wide applied for a non-medical exemption.