Officials with Cook County Health have announced that all employees will be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines, saying that the move is “simply the right thing to do” amid a delta variant-driven surge in cases.
The announcement was made Monday in a message to employees. Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health, says that all team members will be required to receive the vaccine by Oct. 1, and that employees who aren’t compliant by that date could potentially lose their jobs.
“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect the well-being of our patients, visitors, staff and the communities we serve, particularly now as we are experiencing a resurgence due to the delta variant,” Rocha said in the email. “The science is clear: the vaccines are safe and effective. As an entity entrusted with the health of the residents of Cook County, this is simply the right thing to do.”
Employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, according to the email. Employees who can “demonstrate a verifiable medical or religious exemption” that would prevent them from getting the vaccine must provide documentation by that date, according to the email.
Employees who fail to provide that documentation or to get the vaccination will be "subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination," according to the email.
The email comes on the same day as a press release from the Cook County Department of Public Health that urged healthcare systems to require employees to get COVID vaccines.
“It is an obligation for healthcare workers to protect themselves from contracting diseases they could pass onto their patients,” Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer at CCDPH, said in a statement. “As the delta variant storms through Cook County, we must make sure that all people, especially the most vulnerable, are fully protected and that starts by protecting our healthcare workers with vaccinations.”
According to the CDC, Cook County is seeing 106.67 new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents over the last week, meaning that the county has a “high transmission” rate of the virus. Deaths are up 23% in the last week because of the virus, and the positivity rate in the county has gone up to 4.2%. New hospital admissions are also up by 25.2% over the last seven days.