CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Many hospital workers across West Virginia have been told they must get vaccinated against COVID-19 soon or face losing their jobs. To try to prevent that, the state legislature and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice joined this week, to help workers skip the shots if they had legitimate objections.
“We do have to make exemptions for, you know, people who have medical conditions, or people who have religious beliefs and that’s the law,” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.
Complicating the issue further, the federal government is planning to release new exemption guidelines soon, which could overrule what the legislature just passed and the governor plans to sign.
“We are going to be out of compliance on day one, if we were to pass this bill. I think the bottom line here is this: we should not be telling businesses what they should or shouldn’t do, to make it a safer workplace,” said Del. Doug Skaff, (D) Kanawha – Minority Leader.
Both chambers of the legislature passed the exemptions, but they don’t go into effect for 90 days. Many health care facilities in West Virginia have threatened to fire unvaccinated workers in the next few weeks if they don’t get shots, but some are delaying that in anticipation of the new federal rules. Their bottom line is safety
“We have vaccination policies in place already, for health care workers. And it’s not just to protect them, but also our patients, because health care is held to a higher standard. So we want to make sure we’re using every tool we have at our disposal,” said Jim Kaufman, President of the West Virginia Hospital Association.
The West Virginia Hospital Association consists of 64 hospitals and health care systems. They employ approximately 90,000 workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Regardless of vaccine mandates and exemptions, COVID-19 has already put a serious dent onto health care staffing nationwide. Whether it’s fear of getting the disease, or burnout from long hours, many hospitals and other facilities have lost a lot of workers,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.