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JAMESTOWN – Jamestown healthcare workers joined over two-dozen other protestors taking a stand against New York State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Wednesday.
Known as the “Healthcare Freedom Rally” supporters of healthcare workers gathered outside of UPMC Chautauqua Hospital in Jamestown.
Among those speaking out was Dr. Evonne Long, an audiologist who says because of her vaccination status she is now not allowed to work on hospital grounds.
When asked why she chose not to get the vaccine, Long says it goes against her religious beliefs. She also has concerns for her breastfeeding newborn.
“There have been numerous accounts of mothers who have breastfed their infants where their infants break out in uncontrollable rashes, where they have blood clots and where those babies die,” explained Dr. Long. “It is my understanding that if I am terminated due to reasons of not being vaccinated that my license will be removed, and I will no longer be able to practice.”
In addition to Long, UPMC Chautauqua Maternity Nurse Shaina Reynolds is out of a job until she gets vaccinated. Reynolds, citing religious reasons, says she want’s the right to choose, and is not the only one in her department, with Reynolds saying at least six co-workers are also impacted.
“Specifically in my department about six people have been removed from the schedule,” explained Reynolds who when asked if this could impact patient care said, “yes.”
It is not just hospitals that are affected, but also nursing homes like Lutheran Social Services according to CNA Celia Sumner, who was fired Friday along with 20 of her co-workers.
“The government shouldn’t tell me what I should do with my own body for one, and two, I’ve seen so many people get hurt from it,” said Sumner. “Such as my uncle who got grand mal seizures not long after getting the first dose.”
In the end, Dr. Long hopes that UPMC’s cooperate leaders will respect her decision. Long says she understands they are simply following state and federal orders, but feels something should be done.
“I would just say be open to alternatives, be open to testing, be open to other avenues where you can still employ hospital workers when they are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Long.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she is prepared to call in medically trained national guard members and retirees to address potential staffing shortages caused by the mandate.
Her mandate is also in question by a federal judge who extended a temporary restraining order against the state’s requirement to October 12.
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