COVID-19 and the Health Workforce 10/20-11/2

10/20-11/2 Updates

Vaccine Administration

Various courts throughout the US are making decisions in regards to exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for health care workers.

Recent federal guidance states that health care providers are not violating HIPAA privacy laws when requesting vaccination status of patients or employees.

Vaccination mandates are contributing to workforce supply issues, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.

The World Health Organization calls for increased vaccine access for health care workers globally, with more than 115,000 health care worker deaths in the first 16 months of the pandemic.

Vaccine Administration

(10/29/21) New York State Health Care Workers Will No Longer Have Religious Exemption to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate, Court Rules
A federal appeals court vacated a temporary injunction allowing religious exemptions to New York’s vaccination mandate. Nearly 16,000 health care workers had been granted religious exemption from the vaccination requirement.

(10/27/2021) First Circuit Upholds Maine Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers
This article from The National Law Review reports that a unanimous panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the Maine District Court’s dismissal of a preliminary injunction challenging Maine’s COVID-19 immunization requirement for health care employees. The plaintiffs that consist of unvaccinated health care professionals, sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The First Circuit underscored the legitimacy of Maine’s intent in imposing the mandate. It also said that a religious exemption would contradict Maine’s interest in preserving the health of its most vulnerable communities. According to the court, “few interests are more compelling than preserving public health against a lethal virus.”

(10/25/21) HIPAA Does Not Prohibit Health Care Providers From Requesting COVID-19 Vaccination Status of Patients, Employees
This article from the American Dental Association highlights recent guidance from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, outlining that health care providers are not violating HIPAA privacy rules when requesting to know COVID-19 vaccination status of their patients or employees.

(10/21/21) Vaccination Mandates Contributing to Workforce Supply Problems, Federal Report Says
Although there are high demand for workers in the US, labor growth is being disrupted by low supply of workers, according to a report published by the Federal Reserve. The report found that issues that contributed to high turnover in businesses are vaccine mandates, childcare issues, and pandemic-related absences.

(10/21/21) WHO Estimate: 115,000 Health Workers Have Died From COVID-19, As Calls for Vaccine Access Grow
Around 115,000 health care workers have died from COVID-19 from January 2020 to May 2021, according to a new estimate from the World Health Organization. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, globally, 2 in 5 health care workers are fully vaccinated. Tedros also reported in his briefing that there remains massive disparities in vaccine access globally and he called for countries to prioritize health care workers in vaccination rollouts.

Health Workforce Shortages

Maine is investing in medical student loan relief and scholarships in an effort to strengthen the health workforce.

Long-term care facilities in Texas are expected to receive $400 million in federal funding to address workforce shortages.

Workforce shortages are being exacerbated by both burnout and disputes over vaccination mandates.

A recent survey finds that more than half of clinical support staff in health care facilities reported moderate to extreme burnout and stress.

Health Workforce Shortages

(10/25/2021) Gov. Mills Announces $14 Million Plan to Strengthen Health Care Workforce
Maine’s Governor Janet Mills announced a $14 million plan to address the workforce shortage in the state. The plan targets to help people to pursue careers in health care and improve accessibility to care. It includes several initiatives including $4 million in scholarships and student loan relief and $8.5 million to make professional training cost-free, and $1.5 million marketing campaign.

(10/21/21) Long-term Care Providers Win FIght for $400 million in COVID-19 Relief to Address Workforce Shortages
Texas long-term care facilities are set to receive nearly $400 million in federal COVID-19 relief to address staffing shortages. The bill is awaiting the signature of the Texas Gov. Greg Abbot.

(10/20/21) Front-line Health Care Worker Shortage due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Burnout
Hospital workforce shortages caused by disputes over COVID-19 vaccine requirements have persisted this month throughout the US. Employees have been fired as a result of resistance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates in other hospital systems as well. In addition, exhausted nurses are retiring, leaving their jobs, and traveling positions due to burnout. For example, according to the Oregon Nurses Association, 60 percent of nurses at Oregon Health & Science University, the state’s biggest hospital, have shown interest in quitting the profession completely.

(10/20/21) It’s Not Just Doctors and Nurses Reporting Burnout. Support Staff Are Feeling Stressed. Here’s Why
While most of the reports have focused on nurse and doctor burnout, over half of front-line clinical support staff are reporting moderate to extreme burnout, according to a new Well Health survey, and nearly two-thirds have considered quitting. Of the 320 clinical support staff surveyed, 88% report moderate to extreme burnout, with half 56% rating their burnout as “high” or “extreme.”


Both business and advocacy organizations are calling for expanded telehealth options for employees.

Health care providers and their patients are increasingly concerned about how rollbacks in telehealth regulation will impact health care delivery.


(11/02/21) ATA, Businesses Ask Congress to Expand Telehealth Options for Workers
In this article, Healthcare IT News highlights recent calls from various advocacy organizations and business groups, including the American Telemedicine Association and the US Chamber of Commerce, for the continued expansion of telehealth as an option for employees.

(10/26/21) Primary Care Docs Strained by Vaccine Hesitancy, Potential Telehealth Rollback As COVID-19 Pandemic Drags On
This article from Fierce Healthcare covers a recent survey from the Primary Care Collaborative, finding among other things that providers are concerned over a potential rollback of telehealth as an option for providing remote care. The COVID-19 pandemic led to wide scale adoption and expansion of telehealth, however many of the emergency regulations that enabled that growth are set to expire.

(10/21/21) What Happens to Telemedicine After COVID-19?
An article from the Association of American Medical Colleges covering the expansion of telemedicine services early in the pandemic, as well as what to expect about continued use of telemedicine in a post-pandemic world. Many patients and providers have happily embraced remote care as an option during the pandemic, and they worry about the potential loss.

Health Workforce Resiliency

A national survey finds significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical students in the US, especially for some ethnic minorities.

The World Health Organization is calling for increased protections against COVID-19 for health care workers across the globe.

Health Workforce Resiliency

(10/27/21) US Medical Student Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey
New research published in the journal Academic Medicine evaluates results of a national survey of medical students in the United States on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical student experiences. The study found significant impacts on students, especially those who are Black and Hispanic, including limited access to physical activity, tension between personal safety and professional duty, and financial strain among the most common reported impacts.

(10/21/21) WHO and Partners Call for Action to Better Protect Health and Care Workers From COVID-19
The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have issued an urgent plea for immediate action to better protect health care workers globally from COVID-19 and other health issues. These organizations are concerned with the high numbers of health and care workers who have died from COVID-19 and also with the increasing numbers of the workforce that are suffering from extreme burnout, stress, and fatigue.