Essentia Health and St. Luke’s Requiring Employees to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Essentia Health and St. Luke's, two of Duluth’s largest employers, are announcing that all of their workers are now required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

DULUTH, Minn.– Essentia Health and St. Luke’s, two of Duluth’s largest employers, are announcing that all of their workers are now required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes as the more infectious delta variant continues to spread across the country. This new mandate coming down from Essentia Health and St. Luke’s hospitals will impact thousands of people. Across the country, more employers are announcing that their workers must get vaccinated. That includes many hospitals nationwide, with Essentia and St. Luke’s joining in.

Both Essentia Health and St. Luke’s are now requiring vaccinations for their staff.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to keep our patients, many of whom are critically ill, safe,” said Essentia Health President Dr. Jon Pryor.

Essentia employees and other contractors who work inside the facilities must get the first dose by October 1 and the second by November 1. Impacting Essentia’s roughly 13,000 employees.

“This policy applies to all remote workers, volunteers, students, and unemployed medical staff and others who provide services within our facilities,” said Pryor.

About 85 percent of Essentia physicians and advanced care providers have gotten their shots, while another 70 percent of other staffers have as well. Pryor says vaccines are the best way to fight the virus, especially for those working on the front lines.

“Our patients count on us at the most vulnerable times in their lives. Thus, it is critically important for our healthcare workers who’s duty it is us to protect vulnerable and critically ill populations to receive the vaccine and help our patients,” said Pryor.

St. Luke’s is also putting similar restrictions in place with the increasing amount of cases. With all hospital staff and vendors needing to get the first dose by September 1 and the second dose by October 1.

“We understand people have strong beliefs about this,” Dr. Nick Van Deelen, St. Luke’s Co-President/CEO and CMO said in a written statement. “Ultimately, the policy is about keeping our patients and staff safe and reducing the community transmission of a serious disease.”

Meanwhile, for the entire state of Minnesota, the 7-day rolling average of less than 600 new cases per day is the highest in two months but with only 3 deaths.

“No one likes to mandate things. And we were hopeful not to have a fourth surge but that’s not happening,” said Pryor.

Both St. Luke’s and Essentia have two exceptions to the rule, workers can request to skip the vaccine because of medical or religious reasons.

Essentia says it will discipline or even fire employees who refuse to get the vaccine. A spokesperson for Essentia said in a statement to FOX21 that,

“The COVID-19 vaccine is a condition of employment, much like the influenza vaccine. Starting Nov. 1, any individual covered by the required COVID vaccination policy who fails to comply with its provisions will be prohibited from working or providing services within Essentia Health and may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or services. We are offering medical exemptions based on CDC guidelines and exemptions for those with sincerely held religious beliefs. It is critically important that all who can receive the vaccine do so, especially health care workers whose duty it is to protect the vulnerable, elderly and critically ill.”

Regarding discipline measures, a spokesperson for St. Luke’s told Fox 21, “Employees will be deemed to have voluntarily resigned their position.”

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