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Vaccine mandate for health workers in Shasta County shows mixed results, one week later

Cal Cap Vaccine Nurses.jpeg
Andrew Nixon
California Army National Guard Medic Jenny Rafailov prepares syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan, 21, 2021 while nurse Katherine Ambrose watches.

As Oregon’s Covid-19 mandate for health care workers nears its October 18 deadline, a similar law in California shows minor impacts on hospital staffing in Shasta County one week after going into effect.

In the last week, Shasta Regional Medical Center has had no departures because of the mandate, according to Chief Nursing Officer Mark Mitchelson.

At Mercy Medical Center Redding, Chief Operating Officer Robert Folden says about 30 staff out of 1,900 could have their employment status affected.

Services at Shasta Community Health Center have been disrupted, according to COO Brandon Thornock, where eight percent of the staff of 500 left because of the mandate.

“It has dramatically impacted our operations,” Thornock says. “We’re not able to see as many patients. We’ve actually had to close some of our dental clinics on certain days because of a shortage of registered dental assistants.”

Approximately 83% of their current staff are now fully vaccinated, Thornock says. The rest have submitted medical or religious exemptions and will have to get tested for Covid regularly.

As Oregon moves towards its October 18 deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated, the impact on staffing remains unclear. Staff throughout the Asante hospital system are 85% vaccinated, according to a spokesperson. But with employees currently on medical leave and others who could go on unpaid leave while they decide whether or not to get vaccinated, the full extent of staffing impacts will take time to appear.

One of the goals of California’s mandate is to protect those inside hospitals who are vulnerable, according to Shasta County Public Health Director Robin Schurig. In that regard, the mandate has been successful, she says, with high vaccination rates inside hospitals and regular testing for staff who get exemptions.

But she adds, a second goal of convincing individuals who are vaccine-hesitant to get the shot, has so far been less successful.

“The other intended effect, of course, was to increase vaccination and I don’t believe we’ve seen that in our community,” Schurig says. “I don’t think we’ve seen a great uptake in vaccine because of this mandate coming out.”

Folden with Mercy Medical Center in Redding says hospital administrators are waiting for responses to a vaccination survey from staff who have been removed from the work schedule because they are unvaccinated or have not yet requested an exemption.

“They’ve got two weeks to kind of decide what path they’re going to take,” he says.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.