State to require COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers; locals protest in support of area nurses
The Colorado Board of Health late Monday approved an emergency requirement that all staff of licensed health care facilities in the state be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The move came at the request of Gov. Jared Polis, who asked that rules be implemented requiring health care facilities — such as hospitals, community medical clinics, hospice care providers and nursing homes — to mandate employees who interact with patients to be vaccinated.
The rule affects about 3,800 facilities across the state, including Valley View, Aspen Valley and Grand River hospitals locally.
About 30% of the state’s health care workforce remains unvaccinated, according to a news release issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Monday evening.
“With the rise in the delta variant and increased stress on the health care system, ensuring that all workers in licensed health care facilities are vaccinated is one of the most effective means the state can take to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the most at-risk Coloradans and end this ongoing pandemic,” the release stated.
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But the decision hasn’t come without some pushback, including in Glenwood Springs, where about 100 people, including several Valley View Hospital nurses and supporters, gathered outside the hospital and along Grand Avenue to protest the vaccine mandate.
Valley View nurses Ashley Mason and Sydney Borem, who were at the protest, and many of their coworkers who’ve also chosen for different reasons not to get vaccinated, now face the prospect of being fired if they don’t.
“We’re already taking the proper precautions, and we will continue to do so to protect our patients,” Mason said of the required use of personal protective equipment in the hospital.
“This is about having the choice about what we put in our bodies,” she said. “It shouldn’t be mandated.”
Added Borem, “As health care professionals, we advise our patients of the risk of vaccines, medications, surgeries, anything, and it’s their choice whether to proceed. As soon as we sit in that chair, we are no longer an employee, we’re patients.”
The state Health Board ruled that nurses and other health care workers who interact with patients will be required to obtain a first dose of the vaccine by Sept. 30, though it indicated that date is flexible.
The board is to convene again in October to consider the rule in a regular session, according to the release.
Previously, the state implemented a policy requiring all state employees to verify their vaccination status by Sept. 20 or submit to twice-weekly testing. Now, any Public Health, Department of Corrections or Department of Human Services staff members who interact with vulnerable populations and those living in congregate living settings will be required to get vaccinated.
The board implemented the temporary emergency rule on a 6-1 vote, the Denver Post reported.
During a roughly two-hour public meeting Monday attended virtually by at least 1,000 people, about twice as many people spoke against the mandate as spoke in favor of it, with some health care professionals arguing that vaccination was a personal choice that should not be forced on employees under the threat of losing their jobs, according to the Denver Post article.
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Garfield County COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in early September with the anticipated start-of-school spike, according to local health officials.