Benefis Health System announced this week that 37 of its 3,300 employees, or about 1%, concluded their employment due to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in January.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate requires COVID-19 vaccination for workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, with some exceptions. The mandate for most workers went into effect on Monday, and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, a CMS administrator, said the "vaccine rule will cover 10.4 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities."
"The bottom line is that vaccine requirements work and are an important tool to protect patients – and also to keep our health care workers healthy," Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.
As of Tuesday, Benefis reported that 4.4% of employees were granted medical or religious exemptions. Of those, 29% are medical deferrals and 71% are religious deferrals. Some Benefis employees, like remote workers, are exempt from the federal mandate, and 0.6% of Benefis employees are unvaccinated for that reason. Some employees' deferral applications are still pending and some employees are on leave status, so 0.4% of employees are unvaccinated for those reasons.
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As of Tuesday, 94.6% of Benefis Health System employees had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, as required by the mandate.
On Monday, Benefis Health System reported 27 active patients have been hospitalized with COVID-19, with four of those patients in ICU, and two of the four in ICU on ventilators.
Fifty-four percent of eligible Montanans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Montana COVID-19 numbers
Montana on Wednesday reported 929 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state's active case count to 4,129. There have been 3,091 total deaths statewide and 230 active hospitalizations from the virus.
Cascade County reported 231 new cases and has 665 active cases. There have been 308 Covid deaths in the county, which is one additional fatality since Tuesday. The recent death was listed as a man in his 80s, who was vaccinated but not boosted and had underlying conditions. Half of all eligible Cascade County residents have been fully vaccinated.
Flathead County had 207 new cases, Missoula County had 58, Big Horn County had 56 and Rosebud County had 50.
Montana COVID-19 testing, vaccination information:
Alluvion Health offers drive-thru testing site at the Montana ExpoPark at the Family Living Center at 400 3rd St. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Cascade City-County Health Department asks that residents report their positive and negative COVID-19 test results recorded on at-home tests. To report a test, visit: montanagovernment-aijle.formstack.com/forms/montana_covid_home_test_reporting.
The health department is handing out rapid home tests, with each box containing two tests, every weekday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at 115 4th St S, Great Falls, MT 59401.
To order at-home COVID-19 tests through the federal government, go to covidtests.gov.
For more information on vaccines, visit vaccines.gov.
This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: 37 Benefis workers conclude employment due to COVID-19 vaccine mandate