No unemployment checks for health workers who refuse vaccine
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — There will be no state unemployment benefits for health care workers who are fired for refusing to get employer-mandated vaccinations against COVID-19, state officials said Thursday.
Already, a small number of workers have quit rather than be fully vaccinated ahead of the deadline at month’s end.
“Refusing to comply with an employer’s policies, including a health or safety policy, typically disqualifies a person from being eligible to receive unemployment benefits,” Jessica Picard, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Labor, said Thursday.
But each unemployment application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, she said, leaving the door open to exceptions.
A federal judge declined Wednesday to halt the governor’s mandate that most health care workers be fully vaccinated. The state said it will begin enforcing the rule on Oct. 29.
Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston already began curtailing admissions and closed one department because of a staffing shortage linked to the vaccine requirement.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the vaccine mandate alone isn’t causing the workforce shortages. She noted that all businesses are facing shortages during the pandemic.
State agencies will work with individual hospitals and nursing homes “to address individual workforce issues,” Mills said.
Mills announced the vaccine mandate on Aug. 12 for hospitals, nursing homes, dental practices and shelters. There’s a medical exemption but there are no religious or philosophical exemptions.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
The number of new cases of COVID-19 in the state has nosed down over the past two weeks.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 558.29 new cases per day on Sept. 28 to 526.80 new cases per day on Oct. 12. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2.14 deaths per day on Sept. 28 to 2.57 deaths per day on Oct. 12.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
Maine health officials have reported more than 96,000 cases of the virus and 1,088 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle contributed to this report.