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Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals suspend vaccine mandate for caregivers after federal injunction

The pause by Cleveland Clinic and UH comes two days after a federal judge blocked a mandate that health care workers become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

CLEVELAND — Two days after a federal judge put in a preliminary injunction against the start of President Joe Biden's mandate that health care workers become fully vaccinated, University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic have both announced that its caregivers may continue to provide patient care service regardless of vaccination status.

"University Hospitals has been moving to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In light of the federal court injunction issued Nov. 30 that temporarily blocks CMS from enforcing the mandate, come Jan. 4, unless there is further legal action, caregivers may continue to provide patient care services regardless of their vaccination status," UH said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, Cleveland Clinic followed suit and announced a pause of its vaccine policy.

"In light of these developments, we are pausing the implementation of our COVID-19 vaccine policy, which required all employees and those who provide services with us to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or an approved exemption with accommodations. However, to further strengthen our protection of employees and patients, we will put in place additional safety requirements for employees who are unvaccinated, including periodic testing for those providing direct clinical care," Cleveland Clinic announced in its statement.

The lawsuit was brought by 14 states -- Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. 

The federal rule from CMS requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers that get funding from government health programs. Workers were to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second by Jan. 4.

"Even though it is not a condition of employment at this time and CMS deadlines do not apply while the injunction remains in place, we continue asking our caregivers, in clinical and nonclinical positions, to get vaccinated or to seek an accommodation," UH's statement added. "We believe, consistent with the scientific consensus, that COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect our caregivers, patients and community. The overwhelming majority of our caregivers are vaccinated. We are grateful to our caregivers for their service."

Cleveland Clinic similarly praised its vaccinated caregivers. "As a health system, we continue to strongly encourage all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are proud that the majority of our employees are already vaccinated.”

On Tuesday, Kentucky's attorney general won a preliminary court order to block Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal government contractors and subcontractors. The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove stops the mandate from taking effect in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

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