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WVU Medicine, Mon Health change employee vaccine deadlines following Legislature’s passage of exemption bill

MORGANTOWN – In the wake of the vaccine exemption bill the state Legislature passed last week, and soon-expected vaccine mandates from OSHA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, WVU Medicine and Mon Health System have has moved the date for their employee vaccine mandates.

WVUM’s original deadline was this Sunday, Oct. 31; it is now Jan. 21, 2022. Mon Health’s was Monday, Nov. 1. It is now Jan. 22, 2022.

WVUM President and CEO Albert Wright announced the new date in a letter to staff sent out last Thursday.

He said in the letter that when they announced the original date in August, they also put in place a process related to medical and religious exemptions that conformed with existing federal and state law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the West Virginia Human Rights Act, which already require employers to exempt employees from COVID-19 vaccine mandates where the employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs or medical conditions prevent them from receiving the vaccine.

But last week, he said, the Legislature unexpectedly passed HB 335, which sets up procedures for employees to obtain exemptions.

The bill, signed Friday by Gov. Jim Justice, allows the employee to present either a certification from a physician or nurse practitioner that a vaccine is not safe for that person, the person has a specific precaution or the person has natural antibody immunity from COVID-19 exposure or recovery; or a notarized certificate of religious objection. It takes effect Jan. 18, 2022.

Wright said, “We expect both the CMS and OSHA regulations to include provisions related to medical and religious-based exemptions, as well as how employers must monitor or test employees who have received those exemptions.

“Our task as all these new directives emerge from both the federal and state governments,” he said, “will be to reconcile them in some fashion, as they will likely have conflicting directives on what we must do. We will also seek clarification on some parts of the new state law that are unclear or not widely recognized as sound practices by the medical and scientific communities.

“In light of all this,” he said, “we thought it wise to extend the deadline to be fully vaccinated to Jan. 21, 2022, which is around the time we expect the law to become effective.”

Wright noted that nearly 95% of WVUM employees are now compliant.

Mon Health President and CEO David Goldberg said in a statement supplied to The Dominion Post that 92% of employees system-wide are vaccinated.

“As we approach our Nov. 1 stated date, the regulatory landscape continues to shift quickly,” he said. He also noted HB 335, the anticipated OSHA and CMS changes, along with recent White House guidance requiring all federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

“While our COVID-19 immunization policy currently in place allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons,” Goldberg said, “Mon Health is postponing the enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement until at least Jan. 22, 2022 to lessen the impact of the changing regulatory requirements on Mon Health employees, as we monitor federal guidelines in ongoing development.”

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