Earlier this fall, the Mohawk Valley healthcare system lost approximately 75 employees due to COVID-19 vaccination warrants.
About 200 employees requested religious exemptions; about 50 of them have been vaccinated and are back to work. The others had until November 30 to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.
U.S. Representative Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday, calling for the mandate to be quashed, citing a shortage of healthcare workers. Healthcare workers in New York must already be vaccinated against diseases like measles and rubella.
âOur community just cannot easily absorb or recover from the loss of these health heroes,â Tenney said in her letter.
Last week, the state sent 10 National Guard medics to the Mohawk Valley Health System Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on the St. Luke campus to help the long-term care facility help more patients.
Although there were shortages of long-term healthcare workers before the pandemic, Tenney focused on short-term staff shortages caused by employees not wanting to comply with the vaccine mandates they she described as “draconian”.
âHere we are in the midst of a health crisis, and we don’t have healthcare workers who can actually make sure we’re keeping people healthy and safe in our hospital systems,â Tenney said. in an interview Tuesday morning.
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The MP said she heard from voters who had had elective surgery postponed due to staff shortages, including those related to cardiovascular health.
While Tenney, who is vaccinated, encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, she said there should be exemptions, especially related to personal health.
âPreventing people from working and preventing our health care system from being able to treat patients who really need services is creating a health care crisis worse than we even anticipated,â she said.
Hochul said she would not withdraw the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers during her COVID briefing on November 29.
âWe encourage them to get vaccinated and come back to the health care family,â she said. âI know they are dedicated people, but I can’t change a policy because of some people who made this personal decision. That’s why we work very hard for the backfill.
Hochul identified a correlation between hospital capacity and vaccination rate in the regions, and said she believed there would be no increase in the number of hospitals if the northern regions of the state had higher vaccination rates.
Of the 78 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Oneida County, 49 were not vaccinated. The majority of the 19 people hospitalized in the intensive care unit were not vaccinated (13); it was the same for the 10 under ventilators (8).
Asked about improving vaccination rates in the county, Tenney said residents of the predominantly rural and suburban area did not want to be forced to get vaccinated.
âI just feel like you can’t mandate someone to take a picture where people get vaccinated and people in parts of the countryâ¦ die even after being vaccinated,â Tenney said.
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As of December 5, there had been 554 COVID-19-related deaths in Oneida County. Of these, 517 were not vaccinated, while only 37 were vaccinated.
No vaccinated person under the age of 40 died from COVID-19 in the county, while the majority, 31, of those who died during the vaccination were over 70 years old.
Tenney said voters called her to tell her she was going to die from being vaccinated or from similar conspiracy theories. She said she didn’t believe them but cited people she knows, including her son and girlfriend, who contracted COVID-19 after being fully immunized.
âI think it can definitely save lives, but make it mandatory without exception – a lot of people have vulnerable medical conditions and a somewhat experimental vaccine is going to be tough on them,â Tenney said.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer, for people over 16 years of age in August. Other vaccines such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been approved for emergency use authorizations.
Steve Howe is the town reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.