WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Delaware Gov. John Carney and other state officials announced Tuesday that anyone working in K-12 schools in the state must get a COVID-19 vaccine, or undergo weekly testing.
Carney said this is for educators, school staff, contractors, and volunteers who work in public and private schools. The requirement, which will be formally issued by emergency regulation, takes effect on November 1.
"There's no better way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and keep all Delaware children in their classrooms, than to get vaccinated," said Carney. "Our top priority has been to get all Delaware students back in school this fall. This new requirement will help keep them there and prevent regular disruptions to their learning. These vaccines are safe and extremely protective against COVID-19 infection and serious illness. I encourage all Delawareans to get your shot and help us finally put an end to this pandemic."
The Delaware State Education Association is supporting the vaccine mandate issued by Carney. The largest union in the state that represents 13,000 members said for weeks they have been in discussions and already have a state-issued mask mandate in place.
The DSEA's understanding is that staff has the option to get weekly tests if they opt to not get vaccinated. There are religious and medical exemptions, too.
"We support the Governor's decision for all school employees to get vaccinated or submit to testing. All scientific evidence shows us that this vaccine is effective and prevents the risk of transmission while lessening the symptoms if the disease is transmitted," said the DSEA in a statement.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Delaware's secretary of education said there would be disciplinary action, but Governor Carney later said they are still working out the details, and disciplinary action would not immediately result in an educator or school staff member losing their job.
Officials in New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia have issued a similar vaccine requirement.
ChristianaCare, one of the state's largest employers, also has a vaccine mandate. The deadline was September 21. CEO Dr. Janice Nevin acknowledged in a statement that 150 employees who did not comply with the mandate left the company.
"In late July, we made a commitment to put the safety of our caregivers and our patients first by requiring COVID-19 vaccination for everyone who works at ChristianaCare by September 21, 2021... As we anticipated, a small number of caregivers chose not to be vaccinated and have left the organization," said Nevin.
Of the 150 employees, 12 of those who left were full-time nurses.
The Delaware Nurses Association said while they are concerned about nursing shortages overall, they do not think that the departure of 12 will have an impact on patient care.
"They employ thousands and thousands of nurses within their healthcare system," explained the DNA'S Executive Director Christopher Otto. "We don't want to see any nurses or healthcare workers at this time have to resign from their position or take a new one especially given the crisis we're in with another wave of hospitalizations and infections."
The DNA does support a vaccine mandate and said for years they have followed guidelines from the American Nurses Association, which has had a list of required vaccines and recently added the COVID-19 vaccine to that list.
You can read the full statement from Christiana Care's CEO below:
"In late July, we made a commitment to put the safety of our caregivers and our patients first by requiring COVID-19 vaccination for everyone who works at ChristianaCare by September 21, 2021. Our organization has taken this important step to protect the safety of our caregivers, patients and community.
As we anticipated, a small number of caregivers chose not to be vaccinated and have left the organization. Separations for non-compliance with our vaccination policy resulted in the loss of approximately 150 employees, the equivalent of fewer than 90 full-time employees. Of these, fewer than 48 FTEs (full-time equivalents) provided direct patient care, and fewer than 12 FTEs were nurses. Approximately 200 caregivers have received religious or medical accommodations, and in addition to masking, these caregivers will be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
In the last month, our ongoing focus on workforce resulted in hiring more than 200 caregivers, including more than 160 positions that provide direct patient care. These new caregivers join an organization in which they can be confident that their colleagues are vaccinated and that their organization is a leader in COVID-19 safety.
We thank everyone who has made the decision to be vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is a service to others - especially our health care workers, who continue to battle COVID-19 daily as we meet the health care needs of our community. Vaccination continues to be our path not only to protect each other-but to ultimately reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic."
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