People get the chance to keep their jobs no matter what misleading headlines suggest about mass layoffs.
Novant Health, a major North Carolina hospital system, announced Monday that it had been forced to lay off just 175 employees after refusing to follow the new policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. By any objective yardstick, this should have been an encouraging success story about an employer who successfully encourages his workforce to make responsible decisions. Novant told the Washington Post that 99 percent of its 35,000 employees had been vaccinated. It had put out 375 holdouts the week before, but most of them ultimately decided to get their shots and keep their jobs.
Yet this was the headline the Washington Post decided to hit the piece: “The NC Hospital System Fires about 175 workers in one of the largest mass layoffs of all time for a vaccine mandate.” The tone of doom and turmoil would have a Twitter – or make Facebook users who casually scanned the news believe that a poor medical center had just been decimated by defectors, when the story was exactly the opposite.
You can find similar coverage decisions from other outlets that cover vaccine mandates. Apparently some editors have decided that it’s just a good idea to spread the tidbit that Americans are quitting their jobs in protest of public health measures, and then provide the key context that the opposition is actually pretty much a slip up. Here’s CNN reporting that 153 Houston Methodist employees were terminated or fired instead of accepting a shot; only at the end of the story do we learn that the hospital employs around 25,000 people. Another: “39 Quit Kansas Health System Over Vaccine Mandate: Report,” the Hill informs us in a small news aggregation. If you click your way through to the original Kansas City Star article, you’ll quickly find that this represents less than 1 percent of all employees. Only if you ignore the denominator does it definitely look like a labor law bloodbath of authoritarian exaggerations.
At the risk of hexing things, the real story here seems to be that healthcare workers across the country are mostly just following their employers’ vaccination regulations. Industry news site Fierce Healthcare has carefully documented how these measures have affected hospitals across the country. In many places, only a few employees decided to quit their jobs to oppose modern medicine. A South Carolina hospital laid off just five of its 17,000 employees. A regional medical center in Kentucky lost less than 1 percent of its workforce; At UNC Health, 900 of approximately 30,000 employees are unvaccinated and only 70 have quit. And so forth.
The more details you learn about these layoffs, the less worrying they often appear. Delaware’s largest private employer, ChristianaCare hospital system, laid off 150 of its 14,000 employees. But many were part-time workers, and “48 were patient care jobs and fewer than a dozen were nursing jobs,” according to the Delaware News Journal.
There might be some self-selection – perhaps hospitals only choose to issue vaccine mandates if they are confident that their staff will generally cooperate. For this reason, the state of New York, where all healthcare workers will have to be vaccinated or fired from Monday, is a particularly important test case. (Five other states have similar deadlines, according to the Washington Post.) There, too, results seem encouraging so far. Leading up to this week, many hospitals were concerned about possible staff shortages, and Governor Kathy Hochul declared a formal health emergency that would allow National Guard forces to step in if necessary. But the situation doesn’t seem that bad. As the New York Times reported, the looming mandate resulted in a spate of last-minute vaccinations, and by Monday 92 percent of the state’s 650,000 hospital and nursing home workers had received at least one dose. That was 84 percent of those employed in hospitals and 82 percent in nursing homes the week before.
There have certainly been some challenges and hiccups in the state. About 5,000 white-collar workers, or about 12 percent of workers, remained unvaccinated in New York City’s public hospital system on Monday, and were banned from work and received a pay cut as a result. That’s a pretty big part of the workforce. But right now, Mayor Bill de Blasio says the problem is unlikely to have any impact on patient care, and city officials say they haven’t seen any signs of major staff shortages (remember, these numbers aren’t just about health The front lines include nurses such as doctors and nurses, but all salaried employees). In other states, at least a few hospitals have put elective surgeries on hold while they were reviewing their staffing situation, but one of them managed to vaccinate its staff 100 percent by the end of Monday. There were just no obvious disasters.
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What about non-healthcare workers? Well, we can look at the impact of the New York City Public Schools vaccine mandate, which went into effect on Monday at midnight after a jury was given the go-ahead. Much like the mandate for hospitals, the new rules for educators appear to have led to a surge in last-minute vaccinations. New York schools reported Wednesday morning that 92 percent of teachers and 89 percent of all Department of Education staff had been vaccinated. That’s 87 percent of the teachers and 80 of the DOE staff on September 22nd. A loss of 8 percent of the city’s teaching staff would be a severe blow; To put it into perspective, the normal total turnover rate for a year is around 15 percent. But with thousands of employees vaccinated daily, the city seems to be on the way to minimizing its losses. And most importantly, the vast majority of educators agreed to the assignment.
And that’s really the point here. Public and private vaccination mandates seem like a promising way to get this pandemic under control, but many states and corporations are reluctant to implement them, not just for ideological reasons but out of a practical fear of affecting the workforce. By focusing its coverage on “mass layoffs” and layoffs, the media will only heighten these concerns when in reality the overwhelming majority of people are sane by choosing to be insulted if it means keeping their paychecks .