Protesters against the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for medical workers lined up around the Route 58 roundabout near Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead today.
About 150 people took part in the protest, carrying flags and hand-made signs denouncing “tyranny”, “coercion”, “cessation of mandate”, “my body my choice” and similar feelings. “Keep America the land of the free,” demanded a poster. “This is America. I did Nazi what was next,” read another. Other news predicted that more vaccine mandates were on the way. “Hold the line,” a poster read. “The kids are next.”
The two-hour protest was supported by the majority of motorists passing the roundabout, as evidenced by horns, thumbs-up gestures and fists in the air.
“We’ve been out all year without getting COVID,” said a nurse from the PBMC maternity ward, who joined the protest outside the hospital as it started at 11am
“I’m a 17 year old nurse in the emergency room. I worked through this shit for two years. Now what? ”Said a woman wearing an exfoliator.
The protesters included many people who were not PBMC workers and many who were not health care workers but who called themselves anti-vaccination and / or anti-mandate and said they took part in the protest to help health care workers support or out of concern for new mandates would move to other professions. Others expressed concern that the vaccine would be mandatory for children.
Also in attendance were members of Long Island Loud Majority, a pro-Trump group that promotes and organizes protests in hospitals and school board meetings. It organized a huge road rally last year that used the former Walmart’s parking lot on Route 58 as the base for the North Fork leg of the rally.
“Last year’s heroes. Unemployed this year ‘”read several signs.
Some in the crowd said they would rather be unemployed than take the COVID-19 syringe.
A woman who said she worked in an administrative position at a doctor’s office owned by the hospital said she did not want to take the vaccine out of concern about a possible allergic reaction. “I’ll find something else to make a living,” she said.
Other protesters said New York hospitals face a potentially catastrophic shortage of nurses and other health workers if they lay off staff who refuse the vaccine.
It is unclear whether hospitals and other health care facilities will or need to terminate the employment of regulated workers who refuse to take the injection.
PBMC spokeswoman Victoria Palacio said what will happen after the deadline is “an internal matter”. She said over 82% of Northwell Health employees are system-wide vaccinated. “We do not expect any disruption to care for our patients or our community,” said Palacio.
“We want our employees to be safe and sound,” she said. “While we respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression and their voices to be heard in a peaceful and civil manner, we, as healthcare professionals and members of the largest healthcare provider in New York State, have a unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients . “And each other,“ said Palacio.
Former Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the vaccination mandate on August 16, just a week before the scandal-ridden governor’s resignation. Two days after his announcement, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, a recap that makes COVID-19 mandatory for workers in general hospitals and nursing homes. According to the regulation, covered employees must receive their first admission by September 27th. The ordinance of August 18 provides for medical and religious exceptions. It left the facility concerned to devise a plan for implementing and enforcing the order.
On August 26, the State Department of Health’s Public Health and Health Planning Council approved emergency regulations extending the vaccination mandate to additional types of health care facilities, including diagnostic and treatment centers, dental clinics, rehab clinics, midwifery birthing centers, home and inpatient hospices , Adult care facilities and home nursing facilities. The emergency regulations also eliminated a possible exception based on religious beliefs.
Prior to the state mandate, Northwell had a vaccine requirement with the ability to “test” – that is, to get tested weekly to prove the absence of infection with the novel coronavirus. “That worked,” said Palacio.
The state’s two largest health unions, the New York State Nurses Association and SEIU 1199, have urged members to get vaccinated but do not endorse vaccine mandates.
Health officials say vaccinations are an important but not the only tool in a “layered approach” to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, which is rising in many parts of the country, including New York, as the highly contagious delta Variant became the predominant variant. They recommend that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor areas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated people can still become infected, but have fewer severe symptoms and are far less likely to need to be hospitalized than unvaccinated people who become infected.
Fully vaccinated people who become infected, even if they are asymptomatic. can spread the virus to others, the CDC said. However, it is believed that they are less likely to transmit the virus to others, according to a study of over 200,000 people in England conducted by the College of London and published in the New England Journal of Medicine this summer.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
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