One day heroes on the frontline. The next day it’s the unemployment line.

That’s how local health care employees must feel in the wake of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

As of Friday, 1,645 of the total 1,683 health staff at Columbia Memorial Health in Hudson have received at least one dose of an approved COVID vaccine, spokesman William Van Slyke said. The fate of the other 38 is up in the air.

“The 38 individuals would be subject to the requirement as outlined in the state mandate,” Van Slyke said last week.

The state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for hospitals, nursing homes and adult-care facilities requires all health care workers to have at least their first vaccine dose to comply. It requires staff members to be vaccinated, apply for a medical or religious exemption, or face suspension and possible termination.

The caveat is the mandate applies only to facilities regulated by the state Health Department. This means physicians and nurses working in state prisons or at facilities operated by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities or the Office of Mental Health are not bound by the mandate’s rules. Their mandate reveals more flexibility. They can remain in their jobs if they agree to weekly COVID-19 testing.

This inconsistency is part of the reason many hospital workers are enflamed by the state mandate and are filing lawsuits alleging the mandate is illegal under the state constitution.

The coronavirus is a pernicious illness, the delta variant is more infectious still and no one can say what will happen next. These are uncertain times and Gov. Kathy Hochul had little choice but to respond with a tough stance. But, in our opinion, if the state mandate is unfair for some, it is unfair for all.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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