State guidance directs health systems to have employees get COVID-19 vaccine or medical exemption by Monday

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) patient-facing clinical employees who are not vaccinated received a notice Tuesday informing them that if they do not receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or a medical exemption by Monday, URMC will consider them to have voluntarily resigned.

URMC set a deadline of Monday, Nov. 22, at 11:59 p.m.

The notice was not sent to employees who are not patient-facing. URMC told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke that it will try to make remote accommodations where possible.

There are about 700 URMC employees with exemptions, the majority of which are religious.

It is still not known whether those employees will choose to get the vaccine.

Unvaccinated employees at Rochester Regional Health received a similar notice on Tuesday.

The New York State Department of Health guidance that the letter references was sent to all health systems and is dated Nov. 15.

It gives Nov. 22, 2021, as the date that they must ensure that any employee who was previously working under a religious exemption either receives a medical exemption or the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, though it allows some reasonable accommodations to be made.

The guidance is below (mobile users, click here):

New York State Department of Health Guidance by News10NBC on Scribd

URMC sent News10NBC the following statement Tuesday night:

"Yesterday, the State Department of Health informed all New York hospitals and nursing facilities that employees previously granted religious exemptions to the state’s vaccine mandate would need to receive a first-dose of COVID vaccine or valid medical exemption by November 22 to continue working. Facilities are required to have a process for providing reasonable accommodations to employees with religious exemptions who are able to work outside the “covered entity.”

"Today UR Medicine emailed all employees who have been working under religious exemptions since the state mandate took effect Sept. 27. Some work in remote locations where the exemption can be accommodated, some work in direct clinical roles where accommodation is not possible, and some work in roles where potential accommodation is being evaluated. The letters encouraged employees to consider being vaccinated before next Monday, at on-site clinics being offered this week or elsewhere in the community.

"We are hopeful that a large number of employees now working under a religious exemption will choose to accept the vaccines that have been proven safe and effective in more than 20,000 colleagues at UR Medicine and hundreds of millions of people worldwide."

News10NBC reporter Stephanie Duprey did speak to some folks who this would affect and they told her it’s upsetting, but with fear of further retaliation, they did not want to go on camera.