Las Vegas Sun

December 6, 2021

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Vaccination deadline approaches for workers at Nevada hospitals, universities and prisons

Moderna

John Locher / AP

In this April 26, 2021, photo, a nursing student administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at UNLV.

The deadline for employees in Southern Nevada’s hospitals, prisons and universities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is looming.

Here are how some of the local institutions are faring:

Colleges

Employees at public colleges and universities governed by the Nevada System of Higher Education have until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated. Among local institutions, UNLV reported about 83% of its staff as being fully vaccinated as of Oct. 25, not far off from the 85% vaccination rate across all of NSHE.

Additionally, Nevada State College checked in at 87% and College of Southern Nevada at 79%.

NSHE’s human resource department will send out warnings Monday to employees who have not submitted vaccination records, according to the Board of Regents policy. NSHE previously sent out “notices of non-compliance” in October.

The warnings will include information on how the employee can correct any misinformation about their current vaccination status, local resources to get a vaccine, and the ability to request a medical or religious waiver.

Notices of termination will go out on Dec. 1 to the unvaccinated, saying they will be fired as of Dec. 31, although employees with open waiver requests will be stayed.

The state board of health mandated proof of vaccination for on-campus students to sign up for spring 2022 classes. Registration for the next term also begins Monday. Students who get inoculated after Nov. 1 but before the last day to pick up classes can attend in person after they’ve provided proof of their shots. For UNLV, the last day to register is Jan. 24.

Hospitals

Hospitals that accept Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement are under a White House mandate that doesn’t have a deadline. Several have set their own policies already, though.

University Medical Center, which has a Nov. 1 deadline, had 92% of its staff vaccinated as of Thursday. Spokesperson Scott Kerbs said more employees may have been vaccinated outside of UMC and had not yet submitted their records. Medical and religious exemptions will be considered.

“As we continue to lead the way for Nevada’s health care industry, UMC takes pride in developing the safest possible hospital environment for our patients and team members,” Kerbs said. “With an incredibly high vaccination rate among staff and universal COVID-19 testing protocols in place for all admitted patients, UMC provides our community with an unparalleled level of safety.”

The Dignity Health/St. Rose Dominican chain also has a Nov. 1 deadline, although a hospital system spokesman said the numbers were still being crunched.

“As health care providers we have a responsibility to help end this pandemic and protect our patients, our colleagues, and our communities,” Dignity said in its August announcement for its mandate. “Requiring vaccination for our teams is critical to maintaining a safe care environment.”

A spokeswoman for Valley Health, which includes Valley, Centennial Hills, Desert Springs, Henderson, Spring Valley and Summerlin hospitals, said it would follow federal guidelines but did not provide employee vaccination figures.

HCA, which includes Sunrise, MountainView and Southern Hills hospitals, says that “the vast majority of our employees have been vaccinated. We highly encourage vaccination and will follow any state or federal regulations.”

Prisons

At prisons, High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs — the largest facility in the Nevada Department of Corrections — had only a 54% vaccination rate among its nearly 700-person staff as of Oct. 7, the most recent date available, an Nevada Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.

High Desert’s vaccination rate essentially mirrored the systemwide one of 53%, although individual facilities’ compliance rates varied widely around the state.

Spokeswoman Teri Vance said the department will follow a progressive discipline process to address unvaccinated employees, though that could take months to complete, “and all efforts will be extended to each unvaccinated employee to comply with the mandate.” Medical and religious exemptions will be considered.

Vance said each facility has a “emergency response manual” that generally addresses several scenarios, including strikes and walkouts, and additional contingencies in case of mandate-driven critical shortages. These documents are confidential, she said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak backed the state board of health’s decision last month to impose the mandate on state workers at prisons, health care facilities and other facilities that house “vulnerable populations,” including psychiatric facilities and juvenile detention centers. The board unanimously also agreed to a staff mandate at public colleges in September.