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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Atrium and Novant don't plan to mandate COVID booster shots for employees

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National Cancer Institute

Neither Atrium Health nor Novant Health have plans to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, physicians with Charlotte’s two largest hospital systems said Tuesday.

“We’re strongly encouraging them to get a booster and we’re evaluating that every single day,” said Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician at Novant Health. “A high percentage of our team members have already had a booster and others still are not in the window where a booster would be necessary.”

A Novant spokesperson, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not responded to an email asking what percentage of eligible Novant employees had received a booster shot.

Dr. Katie Passaretti, vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist for Atrium Health, said Atrium is also advocating for booster shots but not mandating them. A spokesperson did not provide the number of boosted Atrium employees as of Tuesday afternoon.

“We continue to encourage boosters for everyone that is eligible, both healthcare workers and otherwise. There has not been a decision to mandate at this time,” Passaretti said.

Both Atrium and Novant previously set deadlines for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain an approved exemption. Atrium mandated employees be fully vaccinated — meaning receive two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine— or get an exemption by Nov. 30, 2021. Novant’s policy required workers to be fully vaccinated or have an exemption by Sept. 15, 2021.

The vast majority of both hospital systems’ employees complied with these policies. Novant fired about 175 workers who were not in compliance, while roughly 325 Atrium employees who missed the vaccine deadline were offered what Atrium called “career transition services.”

What it means to be “fully vaccinated” could soon change. The official definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says people are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine. But on Dec. 27, the CDC released new quarantine guidance that distinguished between people who have and have not received a booster.

“For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose … and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days,” the guidance said, in part.

The agency added: “Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.”

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday called on the CDC to update its definition of “fully vaccinated” to include booster doses. He also announced he plans to extend his executive order that requires state employees in cabinet agencies to be either vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.

“When I extend that order, the Office of State Human Resources will have the authority to include boosters in the definition of being up to date on vaccines when the CDC takes that action,” Cooper said. “And our medical experts here and I encourage the CDC to do this as soon as possible.”

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