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Backus nurses want to negotiate terms of COVID-19 vaccination mandate

Norwich — Unionized nurses at Backus Hospital are preparing to face a mandate that all health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy Connecticut hospitals are expected to adopt in coming days and weeks.

In a message sent Tuesday night to its members, the Backus Federation of Nurses strongly urges everyone who can receive the vaccine to be vaccinated while vowing to “advocate for our members’ right to exemptions under the law.”

“As a Union we believe choice is the better policy. Unfortunately, it appears the Hospital has the right to make vaccines mandatory,” the union says. “But the Union has the right to negotiate the impact of the new policy.”

Individuals could be exempted from COVID-19 vaccinations because of health reasons or religious beliefs, health care officials have said.

Sherri Dayton, president of the Backus nurses’ union, said Hartford HealthCare, which owns Backus, should negotiate the terms of a vaccination mandate.

“Vaccinations as a term of employment should be addressed in mutual negotiations with the chain,” she said. “Hartford HealthCare should meet us at the bargaining table before putting any new mandates in place.”

On June 24, the Connecticut Hospital Association, which represents the state’s 27 acute-care hospitals and other health-related organizations, adopted “a consensus, statewide policy endorsing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for hospital and health system employees and clinical staff.” Hartford HealthCare has since emailed staff stating its support for the association’s position, according to the Backus nurses’ union.

Yale New Haven Health, which includes Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and Westerly Hospital, also has indicated it will adopt the hospital association’s policy, though it has yet to announce when its COVID-19 vaccination mandate will take effect.

In mid-June, Hartford Health reported that 73% of its employees had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. A week ago, Yale New Haven Health officials reported that 81% of the system's employees had been vaccinated.

Coronavirus update

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office announced Wednesday that 92 new cases of the coronavirus disease had been detected in the state since the previous day. More than 10,000 new tests had been reported, yielding a one-day positivity rate of 0.89%. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations remained at 32 and no new deaths were reported. The total number of deaths reported in the state since the pandemic began in March 2020 was revised downward by one to 8,278.

Going forward, the COVID-related death counts provided by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will only be announced once a week, on Thursdays, the governor said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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