W.Va.’s largest private employer issues worker vaccine mandate


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP/WSAZ) — West Virginia’s largest private employer is requiring its employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 31 as virus cases continue to grow exponentially statewide.

The mandate issued by the West Virginia University Health System applies to workers at its hospitals and clinics in West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do. We are the state’s leading healthcare provider and largest employer, and we have a higher obligation to our patients as well as to each other. I want WVU Medicine hospitals and clinics to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff. A fully vaccinated workforce will help ensure that safety,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, said.

Wright was the first WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on December 15, 2020, according to a release.

Wright went on to say the health system cannot allow for a situation to develop where hundreds of employees are out due to COVID-19.

“The number of unvaccinated staff out due to COVID is increasing and is starting to have a material impact on our patient care mission. We also cannot have a two-tiered workforce with one that is vaccinated and one that is not. This places an unfair burden on our vaccinated staff, our patients, and public, all of whom expect us to be able to provide the services they need, when they need them. While there’s uncertainty with the current wave we are now in, we know one thing for certain: the vaccine is extremely safe and effective,” Wright said.

The new mandate also applies to staff working remotely at home or onsite.

The number of active virus cases statewide has nearly doubled in the past 10 days.

The decision comes on the same day the FDA granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval, which the healthy system had already administered to more than 60 percent of its workforce under an emergency use authorization, the release said.

There were nearly 4,000 new positive cases reported in the past week alone -- numbers not seen since late January.

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