Published on November 12, 2021

Nash UNC Staff Vaccination Mandate Yields Nearly Full Compliance

Originally published in the Rocky Mount Telegram

After issuing a policy in September requiring COVID vaccinations or an approved exemption by Nov. 8 as a condition of continued employment, Nash UNC Health Care reported a 99.9 percent compliance rate to the policy as of Monday’s deadline.

In a report issued Thursday at a meeting of the Nash UNC Health Care Board of Commissioners, DeNaide Dickens, executive director of human resources for Nash UNC Health Care, reported a 99 percent compliance rate as of that date.

Of the 1,623 employees of the system, 1,326, or 81 percent, had been fully vaccinated by that point; 66, or 4 percent, had been partially vaccinated; 15, or 1 percent, had qualified for a medical exemption; 78, or 5 percent, had qualified for a religious exemption; and 138, or 8 percent, were exempt because of antibody testing as of Nov. 4, Dickens said.

In answer to a question from a board member, Dickens said that the 5 percent religious exemption rate is slightly lower than the rate seen at other hospitals in the UNC Health Care system.

Just 13 employees were considered non-compliant with the policy, Dickens reported Thursday. That number included three full-time registered nurses, one administrative team member, several part-time medical staff members and several local support staff members.

“We have put a lot of effort into moving our employees in the right direction,” Dickens said.

When the policy was announced in September, roughly 60 percent of staff members at the hospital had been vaccinated.

Eight hospital employees have resigned because of the COVID vaccination policy, Dorsey Tobias, executive director of marketing, communications and strategy for Nash UNC Health Care, said Tuesday. The positions held by these employees were not reported.

Dickens said that the hospital had been proactive in holding this position. Last week, the federal government announced that all hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds will be required to have all medical staff vaccinated against COVID, she said.

“Kudos to us for making the right decision because we have already moved into the right direction,” Dickens said.

The vaccination rate in Nash County has increased slightly over the past few weeks. According to data presented by the Nash County Health Department, roughly 53 percent of all county residents have been fully vaccinated. According to data presented by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60.4 percent of the Nash County population 12 years of age or older have been fully vaccinated.

Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said Tuesday at a meeting of the Nash County COVID Response Team that the number of new cases in the county increased slightly over the past week.

“We had a little uptick this week,” Hill said. “Even with a downward trend, you can see a slight number of increased cases.”

Hill said that Nash County had 96 new positive cases of COVID reported this week compared to 88 cases reported last week. At the height of the recent surge in September, Nash County had 490 new cases in one week.

No new deaths were reported this week in the county, Hill said. The current total of Nash County COVID-related deaths remains at 230.

COVID-related hospitalizations decreased again this week. However, Hill said the cases were more serious than they had been in the past few weeks. Though only four people were hospitalized as of Tuesday at Nash UNC Health Care, two of those are under intensive care and one of those is on a ventilator, Hill said.