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Judge, at least temporarily, blocks ban of religious vaccine exemptions for health care workers

Sep 14, 2021 10:55 am

Brendan J. Lyons reports in the Times Union that U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd in Utica issued an order Sept. 14 temporarily stopping employers from enforcing a state vaccine mandate on health care workers who have sought a religious exemption from receiving the shots. The lawsuit was filed by a group of physicians and nurses "who allege that their sincere religious beliefs compel them to refuse the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available," the judge wrote in the opinion. On Sept. 27 the state's mandate requiring hospital and nursing home workers to be vaccinated goes into effect, but, at least temporarily, health workers will be able to claim religious exemptions. A Jill Montag, a spokesperson for state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, said, "Our overriding focus is the protection of patients and residents in our healthcare settings. This is why everyone who is medically able should be vaccinated, especially healthcare workers who interact and care for our most vulnerable at risk New Yorkers. The department will listen to any and all input that helps to advance the goal of protecting patients, visitors, the public and health care workers." As of Sept. 14 the state health department reports that roughly 20 percent of the state's 450,000 hospital workers are unvaccinated. Read more about this story in the Times Union.