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Centra reports small number of resignations, firings over COVID-19 vaccine mandate
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Centra reports small number of resignations, firings over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Centra Lynchburg General Hospital

Centra's Lynchburg General Hospital is shown in this Aug. 10 file photo. 

Having made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for its employees through a monthslong process, Centra Health has seen a small fraction of its workforce either resign or face being fired over not getting a shot.

The health care provider, which employs close to 7,000 people across its catchment area around Lynchburg and Farmville, announced in mid-August vaccines would be required by Nov. 1.

In a Thursday statement, Centra said 79 employees were noncompliant as of Nov. 2 and 55 employees were only partially vaccinated.

“Centra leadership had one-on-one conversations with these Caregivers to validate compliance and next steps,” the statement reads.

By Tuesday, continued lack of compliance led to five employees being fired, according to Centra. Combined with 31 employees who resigned because of the vaccine policy, the provider lost 0.52% of its workforce, but assured Thursday “These departures do not impact staffing within the Centra system.”

Centra included vaccine exemptions in its requirement for “certain religious beliefs or medical conditions” but refused to provide numbers on how many employees were granted those exemptions. Because of that, it’s unclear exactly how many of its employees are actually vaccinated.

The provider said it won’t require regular testing for exempt employees but warned federal guidelines could change that. Any new hires will need to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

When Centra’s requirement was announced in August, COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations had started to rise rapidly with spread of the more contagious and dangerous delta variant. Case spread hit the Lynchburg area the hardest around mid-September, with outsized numbers of new cases per day and while Centra’s Lynchburg General Hospital saw COVID-19 patients occupy almost a third of its beds.

At one point, the nonprofit Covid Act Now, which provides national COVID-19 data insights, ranked Lynchburg the third most infectious locality in the U.S.

The Central Virginia Health District, made up of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties, has historically reported lower vaccination rates than the rest of the state on average.

No localities in Central Virginia have hit the 50% mark of residents fully vaccinated, and just about half of adults in Lynchburg are fully vaccinated. That’s compared to 64% of Virginia residents who are fully vaccinated and 76% of adults.

Locally and nationwide, employees in many different sectors have pushed back against such vaccine requirements, and Centra wasn’t spared its share of dissidents. Some organized online campaigns and demonstrated in person against the mandate.

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