‘I’ll go to work until they escort me out’: NY nurse says no to vaccine as mandate takes effect

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Health care workers across New York have reached the deadline to get their COVID-19 shot.

On Saturday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the deadline could leave New York in a state of emergency, as health care systems are already facing staffing shortages. 

Krista Michael, a registered nurse with Unity Hospital for over 30 years, hasn’t gotten vaccinated yet.

“I’m very disheartened that the governor just feels that we are dispensable,” Michael said.

Michael says she loves her job. But isn’t ready to throw in the towel for not getting the vaccine.

“I don’t want to be rushed into taking something,” Michael said. “My initial hope was give it a couple years, I’d like to see how people who have taken it are doing physically in the next year, couple years.” 

She says she’ll maybe get it someday, but it’s nobody’s business when or why. 

“As far as a mandate I just don’t think it’s the government’s place to force me to take something otherwise my career is jeopardized,” she said.

Michael says she had already overcome COVID-19.

“Being that I already have natural immunity as a survivor I would like to have more time, to choose, I would like the privilege to choose, period,” she said.

Michael said she’s not opposed to vaccines, she just feels this one has been rushed.

“I just don’t feel the need for me to take it right now and I don’t want to be forced,” she said.

For now, she’s preparing for the worst.

“I don’t plan to resign,” Michael said. “I will go to work until they escort me out.”

Gov. Hochul is preparing for a potential state of emergency declaration, in anticipation of losing employees like Michael.

Her contingency plan involves recruiting health care workers from other states and countries, recent graduates, those retired, and potentially members from the National Guard.

Hochul says she also plans to work with federal and state officials to expedite visa requests for medical professionals who need them.

In the meantime, Michael is taking it day by day.

“I am a bit overwhelmed, I am in my 50s but I still have a lot to give, I have a lot to offer, I love my job, my coworkers, patients,” Michael said.

Hospital systems, including URMC and Rochester Regional Health, say they were already been facing staffing shortages before the mandate. They’ve been making some changes to accommodate and will assess vaccination rates come Monday.

“I had conversations with health care systems yesterday, there’s an awful lot of their staff still getting vaccinated this weekend,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “So part of the challenge is understanding where we’re going to be in just a couple days but I’m confident.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says he’s confident this will not affect local health systems: over 90% of employees in both hospital systems are vaccinated. 

There’s been several hundred religious exemption requests as well. A federal judge recently put a pause on any mandate for those who claim religious exemption — that extends through Oct. 12.

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