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Ascension Wisconsin to require its associates to get COVID-19 vaccination by Nov. 12
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ASCENSION WISCONSIN

Ascension Wisconsin to require its associates to get COVID-19 vaccination by Nov. 12

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Ascension pharmacist

Kevin Peterson, pharmacist, prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 6 at Ascension All Saints Hospital.

Ascension Wisconsin will be requiring its associates to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 12.

According to a news release from Ascension, tens of thousands of its associates have already been vaccinated, “but we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve.”

Ascension will require all associates be vaccinated, regardless of whether they provide direct care to patients, and regardless of whether they work on-site or remotely. This requirement includes associates employed by subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practice providers, whether employed or independent; and volunteers and vendors entering Ascension facilities.

 "The Delta virus is much more infectious. Its viral load is thousands of times higher than our previous variants. It's going to make even the average healthy person sick now," said Dr. Catherine O'Neal of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Just three states now account for 40% of new COVID cases, but cases are rising elsewhere too.  "We do know that in our ICUs, we are seeing younger people intubated who are very sick or who are on the floors and are very sick. That should be a gigantic wake-up call," said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham   Although unvaccinated Americans are driving the surge, more vaccinated Americans are testing positive and possibly transmitting the virus.  Even the White House has seen new breakthrough cases. Now the Biden administration is talking with the CDC about whether masking guidelines should be updated.  "We've never said that battle is over, it's still ongoing. It would more concerning -- or should be more concerning -- to you and the American people if we were not having those conversations," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. DC guidance currently says vaccinated Americans can resume normal activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing.  The problem though without mask mandates, unvaccinated Americans are also dropping their masks. Health officials fear the  honor system is  failing in many places.  "We are always looking at the data as the data come in. Our guidance has been clear since, since we put it out several months ago," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday. The CDC says its guidance remains unchanged, but some vaccinated health experts say they are keeping their masks on."I have not really taken my mask off. I go outside and walk I still have my mask. I certainly, when I go into the post office or the grocery store or the pharmacy or any other place, I keep my mask on. It's added protection," Dr. Zeke Emanuel told CNN. 

First Ascension Wisconsin COVID vaccine recipient was Dr. Joseph Weber, a pulmonologist at Ascension Franklin

First Ascension Wisconsin COVID vaccine recipient was Dr. Joseph Weber, a pulmonologist at Ascension Franklin.

The timeline for completing the vaccine series and meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is aligned with Ascension’s annual influenza vaccination requirement. “In those instances when someone may not be able to get vaccinated due to a medical condition or strongly held religious belief, Ascension will provide a process for requesting an exemption similar to the process we use for the annual influenza vaccine,” Ascension said in the news release.

“This requirement will be implemented in accordance with the collective bargaining agreements reached between Ascension business entities and unions representing our associates.”

Ascension said it conducted an analysis as part of the decision-making process for the new requirement.

“This decision is rooted in our Mission commitment to leading with quality and safety. As a healthcare provider and as a Catholic ministry, ensuring we have a culture of safety for our associates, patients and communities is foundational to our work,” Ascension said.

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