Montana governor asks Biden administration for flexibility on vaccination mandate for rural hospitals

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and two Republican lawmakers for his state are urging the Biden administration to allow exemptions for rural hospitals to the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers.

In a Jan. 26 letter, Mr. Gianforte, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale cited worker shortages during the latest COVID-19 surge. Amid the shortages, they asked that the administration issue waivers to healthcare facilities where state residents' care access, especially in rural communities, is jeopardized. 

"We are deeply concerned that the vaccine mandate will penalize healthcare entities that simply cannot comply with the mandate due to ongoing workforce challenges," the letter said. "Some Montana facilities cannot afford to lose another healthcare professional, especially when alternative measures can be implemented, such as masking and testing, to protect the safety and health of employees, patients and visitors from COVID-19."

The letter, which was sent to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, came after the Supreme Court upheld the mandate Jan. 13. 

Montana and other states covered by the Supreme Court decision must ensure staff have received at least one shot, have a pending request for an exemption, have been granted a qualifying exemption, or have been identified as having a temporary delay as recommended by the CDC, by Feb. 14, according to CMS guidance released Jan. 14. They also must ensure their employees are fully vaccinated by March 15. 

Read the full letter here.

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