By Guy Page
Even as legislative momentum for a statewide mask mandate is failing, Vermont’s largest private employer says Feb. 15 will be the last day of work onsite for unvaccinated workers.
Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) reportedly threw in the towel on the statewide mask mandate she and House Speaker Jill Krowinski have both been pushing since the Legislature’s Special Session in November, according to a Jan. 19 VT Digger article.
However, municipal action has shown only tepid support for a mask mandate. As of January 3, 20 towns and cities had adopted a public mask mandate, while 92 had indicated opposition, according to a Vermont Daily Chronicle survey.
This week, Balint reportedly said there is “no path forward,” and blamed Gov. Phil Scott for not taking executive action or backing the bill. However, committee chairs are said to be unenthusiastic about the statewide mandate.
A House bill was introduced earlier this month but as yet has gone nowhere in the Human Services Committee. A statewide mask mandate was reportedly discussed, without much enthusiasm, in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee.
Meanwhile, the University of Vermont Medical Center health network has given all unvaccinated employees a Feb. 15 deadline to get vaccinated or be approved for an exemption. After that date, they will not be allowed to work onsite, according to letter to employees from President Dr. John Brumstead.
“Until now, our Vermont affiliates have not mandated full vaccination,” Brumstead said. “The new VErmont vaccination policies are both compliant with and independent of the federal vaccine mandate for health care workers that has been subject to recent court action.” He then stated the new requirements and deadlines:
- All employees who have not done so already must submit proof of at least a single vaccination dose, and medical and religious exemption requests will be due, by January 27 (next Thursday.)
- After 15, employees will not be eligible to work onsite until they have provided initial proof of vaccination.
Brumstead left no doubt that the hospital is not only complying with the federal vax mandate for health care providers, it is also in agreement.
“Our network recently issued a public plea for Covid-19 vaccination that ended with these words: ‘Together, we can save lives.’ This is doubly true for you, as an employee of our health care system,” Brumstead said. “If you are not vaccinated against Covid-19, it’s time to do the right thing to protect our patients, our communities, and each other.”
UVMMC is currently short-staffed due to widespread transmission of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. It is unknown how many onsite workers will not be allowed to work after Feb. 15 for lack of vaccination.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.