Protest outside Riverhead hospital draws crowds against vaccine mandate
Protesters against the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers lined up around the Route 58 roundabout near Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead today.
About 150 people turned out for the protest, carrying flags and hand-made placards denouncing “tyranny”, “coercion”, “arrest of mandate”, “my body my choice” and similar sentiments. “Keep America the land of the free,” urged a sign. “This is America. I made this coming Nazi,” read another. Other messages predicted that more vaccination warrants were on the way. “Hold the line,” a sign read. . “The children are next.”
The two-hour protest received support from the majority of motorists passing through the roundabout, as evidenced by horns, thumbs-up gestures and fists in the air.
“We have gone the whole year without contracting COVID,” said a nurse from the PBMC maternity ward who joined the protest outside the hospital as it barely started at 11 a.m.
“I have been an emergency nurse for 17 years. I worked on this shit for two years. What now? ” said a woman wearing scrubs.
The protesters included many who were not PBMC employees and many who were not healthcare workers but described themselves as anti-vaccine and / or anti-warrant and said they were attending the protest to support healthcare workers or for fear that new mandates would come to other professions. Others have expressed concern that the vaccine is compulsory for children.
Also in attendance were members of the Long Island Loud Majority, a pro-Trump group that promoted and helped organize protests at hospitals and school board meetings. He hosted a huge road rally last year that used the old Walmart parking lot on Route 58 as the staging area for the North Fork leg of the rally.
“The heroes of last year. This year’s unemployed, ”read several signs.
Some in the crowd said they would rather be unemployed than take the COVID-19 photo.
A woman, who said she worked in an administrative position at a doctor’s office belonging to the hospital, said she did not want to withdraw the vaccine for fear of a potential allergic reaction. “I’m going to find something else to do for a living,” she said.
Other protesters said hospitals in New York would face a potentially catastrophic shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers if they fired employees who refused the vaccine.
It is not clear whether hospitals and other covered health care entities will – or are required to – terminate employment of workers covered by the rules who refuse to be vaccinated.
PBMC spokeswoman Victoria Palacio said what happens after the deadline is “an internal matter.” She said more than 82% of Northwell Health employees across the system are vaccinated. “We do not expect any disruption in the care of our patients or our community,” said Palacio.
“We want our staff to be safe and healthy,” she said. “While we respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression and to have their voices heard in a peaceful and civil manner, we as medical professionals and members of the state’s largest healthcare provider of New York, have a unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients. and each other, ”said Palacio.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the vaccine’s tenure on August 16, just a week before the scandal-ridden governor resigned. Two days after his announcement, New York State Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker signed a summary order making COVID-19 mandatory for workers in general hospitals and nursing homes. Covered employees are required by the order to get their first injection by September 27. The ordinance of August 18 allows medical and religious exemptions. He left it up to the target entity to design a plan to implement and enforce the order.
On August 26, the State Department of Health’s Public Health and Health Planning Council approved emergency regulations that extend the mandate of vaccines to other types of health facilities, including clinics. diagnostic and treatment clinics, dental clinics, rehabilitation clinics, midwifery birthing centers, homes and inpatients. hospices, adult care facilities and home care agencies. The emergency regulations also eliminated a potential exemption based on religious beliefs.
Prior to the state’s tenure, Northwell had imposed a vaccine requirement with the ability to “test” – that is, to be tested weekly to prove freedom from infection with the novel coronavirus. “It was working,” Palacio said.
The state’s two largest healthcare worker unions, the New York State Nurses Association and SEIU 1199, have urged their members to get vaccinated but do not support vaccination mandates.
Health officials say vaccination is an important tool, but not the only one, in a “layered approach” to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, which is on the rise in many parts of the country , including in New York City, the contagious delta variant has become the predominant variant. They recommend that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.
Vaccinated people can still be infected, but have less severe symptoms and are much less likely to require hospitalization than unvaccinated people who are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fully vaccinated individuals who become infected, even if they are asymptomatic. can also pass the virus on to others, the CDC said. However, they are thought to be less likely to spread the virus to others, according to a study of more than 200,000 people in England conducted by the College of London and published this summer in the New England Journal of Medicine.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
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