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University Hospitals backtracks on COVID-19 vaccine requirement after judge blocks mandate

A CWRU Law Professor said a court fight over vaccine mandates comes down to judging what power the federal government should have over the rights of states.
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 9:16 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - University Hospitals is no longer moving forward with its plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for caregivers.

A statement released Thursday morning by the hospital system confirms that the change follows a federal court injunction issued Nov. 30.

Read the full statement from University Hospitals below:

University Hospitals has been moving to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In light of the federal court injunction issued Nov. 30 that temporarily blocks CMS from enforcing the mandate, come Jan. 4, unless there is further legal action, caregivers may continue to provide patient care services regardless of their vaccination status.

Even though it is not a condition of employment at this time and CMS deadlines do not apply while the injunction remains in place, we continue asking our caregivers, in clinical and nonclinical positions, to get vaccinated or to seek an accommodation. We believe, consistent with the scientific consensus, that COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect our caregivers, patients and community. The overwhelming majority of our caregivers are vaccinated. We are grateful to our caregivers for their service.

A vaccination plan has been in place at Metro Health since the end of October and will not change with this court ruling.

Metro Health released the statement below:

“We required vaccinations before the federal mandates and our staff responded with near-universal compliance. We have no plans to revisit the issue because we believe vaccinations are the best way to protect our staff, our patients, and the communities we serve.”

A spokesperson from Akron-based Summa Health told 19 News that the system’s vaccination policy had been in place since October, prior to the federal mandate being announced, and was not devised in anticipation of the mandate.

Summa Health is at 100 percent compliance and they do not plan any changes to their policy.

A federal judge issued the injunction after several states sued to prevent a vaccine mandate that the federal government wanted to impose that was tied to Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals that would ultimately dry up if those hospital systems did not impose the mandates on their employees.

Sharona Hoffman is the Co-Director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University and said this case is simply about the federal government’s use of what some see as nontraditional powers.

“The fights is just about whether the federal government has the power to issue this kind of a mandate, it is not traditional, usually the state issues a vaccine mandate,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said it was clear that this was not a battle to see if individual employers had the right to impose vaccine mandates, they certainly do and said those decisions are made by each individual business.

“Every employer is going to do a cost-benefit analysis, what makes sense for them, are they going to lose employees over this, are they going to lose patients who don’t feel comfortable going to a facility where people are not vaccinated,” she said.

Read the statement from the Cleveland Clinic below:

A federal court recently issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine federal mandate by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). That rule is now on hold.

In light of these developments, we are pausing the implementation of our COVID-19 vaccine policy, which required all employees and those who provide services with us to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or an approved exemption with accommodations. However, to further strengthen our protection of employees and patients, we will put in place additional safety requirements for employees who are unvaccinated, including periodic testing for those providing direct clinical care.

As a health system, we continue to strongly encourage all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are proud that the majority of our employees are already vaccinated.

This is a developing story. Return to 19 News for updates.

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