Baltimore Business Journal: UMMS CEO: Now is the time for employers to make decisions about vaccine mandates

Dr. Mohan Suntha, UMMS

By Holden Wilen
August 27, 2021

The following is an excerpt from the original Baltimore Business Journal article.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise and flu season around the corner, now is the time for businesses to make decisions about vaccine mandates before things get worse, one of Maryland’s top health officials said Aug. 27.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, painted a bleak picture for the fall during a virtual discussion about the coronavirus delta variant, hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee. At the peak of the last surge in January and February, UMMS had about 450 Covid-19 patients on a daily basis at hospitals across the system. That number dropped to 12 in the spring, but has now ballooned back up to about 170 patients on a daily basis.

At the same time, physicians are also projecting a severe flu season because people are not following guidelines about social distancing, hand washing and masking as closely as they were a year ago. Suntha said the combination of increased cases of Covid-19 and the flu could present a “dramatic challenge” when it comes to the availability of medical resources.

However, readily available vaccines offer hope. Businesses and individuals just have to act, he said.

“We are absolutely in the thick of this once again, and we’re staring down the barrel of whatever is coming this fall relative to flu season,” Suntha said. “It is absolutely disconcerting to us and it is why, going back to this vaccine mandate, why it’s so critical we have to make these decisions now. Because protecting our workforce, protecting our community is critical now knowing what we have coming.”

A number of companies and organizations in the Baltimore area have implemented vaccine mandates for their employees. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, architecture firm Hord Coplan Macht, the nonprofit Catholic Charities of Baltimore and law firm Miles & Stockbridge are among those requiring employees to get vaccinated.

The list is expected to grow with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine earlier this week. PK Law in Towson became one of the latest firms to implement a mandate, requiring all eligible employees to receive the vaccine by Oct. 4.

Harriet Cooperman, a labor and employment attorney at Saul Ewing, answered questions during the GBC event about the legal ramifications of implementing mandates. She said mandates are legal and there are only two main exemptions employees can claim to get away with not being vaccinated. One of the exemptions is if an employee has an underlying medical condition. The other is if an employee has a “deeply held religious belief.”

Having a religious belief, though, is different than simply believing your employer can’t tell you what you can and can’t do, Cooperman said.

“That’s not frankly true,” Cooperman said. “Those kinds of objections to vaccination are not protected.”

Read the complete article.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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