Employees at the Community Health Center of Wood County — but not the health department — will have to get vaccinated after local and U.S. Supreme Court action on Thursday.

But, the Wood County Health Department board qualified, the mandate will not go into effect until there is a timeline from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Our timeline is when CMS says you have to be in compliance, we are going to be in compliance,” said board member Richard Strow at Thursday’s meeting.

At stake is $843,211 in Medicare and Medicaid funding, or 55% of total revenue.

“We’ve got 2,500 people that we’re serving with the health clinic. We cannot, under any circumstances, put that at risk,” Strow said.

Health Commissioner Ben Robison said the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a stay on President Joe Biden’s mandate that businesses with more than 100 workers either have employees be vaccinated against coronavirus or wear masks and undergo weekly testing.

However, the justices said that a separate rule requiring COVID vaccines for an estimated 10 million health workers at facilities that receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid could go forward.

“We do not have an implementation timeline,” Robison said.

“Our goal is to grant every religious exemption possible,” he added.

Strow proposed an amendment that would require board members to be vaccinated.

“As a board, we should not ask members of our staff for the health centers, to do anything that we are not held under the same responsibility,” he said.

The amendment would “divide the building,” he said, requiring health and dental employees to get vaccinated, but not health department employees.

Those required to get the vaccine include employees, licensed practitioners, students, trainees, interns and volunteers, board members and individuals who provide care, treatment or other services for the facilities and its patients.

The amendment passed unanimously.

The motion to adopt the mandate, however, was rejected by board members D.J. Mears and Kim Hertzfeld. Sue Yoder abstained.

Mears asked if the board would be liable if someone who was mandated to have the vaccine had a reaction. Robison said no.

“The government has tied our hands,” Hertzfeld said, garnering a round of applause from about two dozen people in the lobby.

She said she works in the health care field, which is depleted, and this mandate “couldn’t have come at a worst time.”

Robison said he doubted that funding would be immediately taken away from the health center, if a mandate wasn’t enacted.

The government would begin its audit with the big hospital systems, he said.

The mandate has been discussed since September, Robison said. The health department, since then, has sought the opinion of the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office, while it waited for court decisions.

“The surprise to us was the breadth of the reach of this because of how we’re structured,” Robison said.

He added that the top court on Thursday did not rule on the merits of the mandate, just the stay.

Board member Cathy Nelson asked if the new variant will make mandates moot.

“If omicron does its thing, in terms of getting — possibly — to herd immunity, is there a possibility that things could dramatically change?” she asked.

Robison said it was difficult to predict.

After the meeting, Robison said there are 60 total employees, with about 60-70% working for the health and dental centers.

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