Maureen Hurst thought that when she left her job, after more than 40 years working in healthcare, it would be to step into retirement.
Instead, last week, the registered nurse of 42 years found herself unceremoniously shoved into the abyss – fired via email after working the last 22 years at the SUNY Research Foundation, Stony Brook, New York.
It was a brief exchange: was she going to comply with the state mandate and get the Covid-19 vaccine? She responded that she was not. She was fired.
Hurst, 59, is one of thousands of Americans prepared to go to the mat rather than comply with the sweeping vaccine mandates announced by the White House last month.
Faced with the prospect of having the shot or losing their livelihood, these so-called ‘refuseniks’ have opted for the latter, going to bat, and in some cases going to court, in a concerted push-back against a mandate that, they argue, is unlawful, unnecessary and unsafe.
In New York, registered nurse Maureen Hurst (left) was fired last week from the SUNY Research Foundation in Stony Brook, where she worked for 22 years, for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate. Arlin Cameron, 41, (right) a microbiologist and safety representative at Houston Methodist Hospital got a religious exemption for the vaccine but decided to quit after her workplace became divided and toxic over the issue
Jennifer Bridges, 39, was fired from Houston United Methodist Baytown Hospital in June for refusing to comply with workplace policy requiring she be vaccinated
On Monday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate went into effect, dozens of New York City teachers staged a demonstration outside the Department of Education in downtown Brooklyn. They held placards urging, ‘Resist medical tyranny!’ and stating, ‘My Body My Choice.’
Ninety-seven percent of the city’s teachers have received at least the first dose of the vaccine but that still leaves close to 4,000 unvaccinated staff who risk losing their jobs.
It is a scenario being played out across the country and in all different sectors.
In Houston, Texas, 153 employees of Houston Methodist Hospital have quit or been fired for refusing vaccination.
In North Carolina the Novant Health Hospital system which has over 35,000 employees across 15 hospitals and over 800 clinics has fired around 175 of its workers.
In Delaware 150 employees left ChristianCare, a major hospital system after they failed to meet their September 21 deadline.
Employees of the Democratic National Committee arrived at work Tuesday to an email telling them to get vaccinated or look for work elsewhere – a warning expected to bite next month when all staff are scheduled to be back in the office.
President Biden announced his mandate against a backdrop of slowing vaccination rates.
Day by day the US rate fell from 3.4million shots a day in April to about 50,000 a day in July. It has since climbed to 85,000 a day.
The president’s goal, announced September 9, was to bolster that effort and, ‘reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans by using regulatory powers and other actions to substantially increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements.’
Dozens of New York City teachers staged a demonstration outside the Department of Education in downtown Brooklyn on Monday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate went into effect
Protesters march across the bridge holding placards urging, ‘Resist medical tyranny!’ and stating, ‘My Body My Choice’
According to the White House: ‘These requirements will become dominant in the workplace.’
But not, DailyMail.com has found, without significant strife and resistance.
Today Hurst is devastated at the loss of her job, but she stands firm in her decision.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, the married mother and grandmother explained that she is not an anti-vaxxer and, with more than four decades working in the medical profession, the last two of them in clinical research, she is not anti-science.
As far as she is concerned the issue at stake is ‘informed consent.’ And that’s not something she feels able to give.
She said: ‘I have been involved in clinical trials and research, I deal with Institutional Review Board reviews, I used to be a compliance auditor…I worked on clinical trial management, uploading protocols.
‘You don’t approve something in 18 months, the average time to get something approved is usually years and years and years. There are four phases of clinical trials.
‘[These vaccines] just haven’t gone through enough. I don’t trust it.’
She added: ‘Look, I would never say to anyone, “Don’t do it.” You have a family to support, a livelihood to protect? I get it.
‘I’m just saying, you need to do what’s good for you; I need to do what’s good for me.’
Deborah Conrad, a United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, opted not to get the vaccine due to the lack of research
Conrad also reasoned that as a health worker who had worked frontline throughout the pandemic, she had a high degree of exposure and may well already have had Covid-19, but said she was faced with
For Arlin Cameron, 41, that meant walking away from a job that she loved. The microbiologist who also has qualifications in environmental protection was a safety representative at Houston Methodist Hospital where she inspected the hospital’s research and testing laboratories for the past eight years.
She got a religious exemption but quit five weeks ago because, she said, she could no longer abide how divided and toxic her workplace had become in the wake of the vaccine mandate.
She said: ‘I made my decision that I would not take the vaccine based on my own research and my own religious and spiritual beliefs.
‘Around November they were saying that they were going to pay $400 or $500 to whoever had the vaccine by March 15 and had worked through the pandemic. They called it a ‘Hope Bonus.’
‘I worked all through the pandemic. I was an essential worker. So around that same time I put in for my religious exemption and they denied it and wouldn’t pay me the Hope Bonus.’
Cameron resubmitted her application and was ultimately granted an exemption but, she said, that did not stop her from experiencing harassment.
She said: ‘During the election there was a memo put round that we were not allowed to talk about politics or religion in the workplace. But they never put anything round saying you can’t talk about the vaccine mandate. So, you were harassed.
Texas registered nurse Jennifer Bridges, 39, was fired from her job after refusing the Covid-19 vaccine
Patient Care Assistant Unit Admin Assistant at Houston Methodist Hospital, Madeline Dib, who is Catholic, told DailyMail.com she got a religious exemption but is now looking for a back-up plan because the atmosphere in the hospital has changed
‘People would make comments at meetings, saying you were crazy or stupid. I know of co-workers who were stopped in hallways by their directors and repeatedly questioned about why they didn’t get it.’
Forty-six-year-old physician’s assistant Deborah Conrad knows all about harassment.
She turned up to work at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, Monday, uncertain whether she would have a job or be met by security after her refusal to get vaccinated saw her on the wrong side of Rochester Regional Health’s mandate deadline.
Her reason for not wanting the vaccine was simple, coming from a medical background she said: ‘I was nervous about how quickly they came to market because there wasn’t really a lot of data and disclosure about side-effects and the sort of studies we normally have before a product is available.’
She also reasoned that as a health worker who had worked frontline throughout the pandemic, she had a high degree of exposure and may well already have had Covid-19.
She said: ‘We weren’t testing through the pandemic so I can’t know for sure. But I made my decision and I also thought, initially, vaccines would be better used on people at higher risk than me.
‘I’m relatively young and healthy. I certainly felt I shouldn’t be the first in line.’
Conrad held firm despite knowing that a lot of her colleagues ‘just couldn’t understand why some of us were resisting.’
She said: ‘I’m somebody that tends to question things. I’m all about informed consent and making the best choice for myself.’
Even before the mandate was brought in, she said: ‘we were constantly pushed to the point where it bordered on harassment.’
Stickers were handed out to those who had received the vaccine, tacitly flagging up those who had not.
HR representatives accosted the unvaccinated staff members asking: ‘Are you going to get it today?’ and an atmosphere was fostered, she said, where patients were led to believe that ‘somehow those of us who chose to wait, or not get vaccinated, were not wanting to keep them safe.’
A lawsuit filed against United airlines – the first major airline to impose a vaccine mandate on employees – argues that it is ‘accommodating’ exempt employees only by offering ‘indefinite periods of unpaid leave,’ during which all benefits are surrendered
At the height of her harassment, Conrad said: ‘I received death threats. I had people saying, “I hope you get Covid and die.” That sort of thing, there was no privacy to your status. It was terrible.’
The atmosphere at the hospital was, she said, ‘very, very ugly.’
‘We had patients refusing to be cared for by people who weren’t vaccinated and doctors refusing to treat people who weren’t vaccinated.’
Exasperated she added: ‘It just made no sense to me. If you’re vaccinated, why are you afraid of the non-vaxxed?’
Again, Conrad is not anti-vaccine – she says she has got her flu shot every year – nor anti-science.
She has observed mask mandates in her place of work and beyond, she takes her temperature every day and is perfectly willing to submit to testing.
She admits, ‘It’s been awful. There have been tears and anger and stress and fear and all kinds of things.’
But ultimately, she said: ‘I fear the vaccine more than I fear Covid.’
Another class action in Colorado has been filed against the Department of Defense, arguing that service members refusing the vaccines are the ones who have science behind them and not those pushing the mandate
When it came to it, Conrad told DailyMail.com, she turned up for work to find that she had been quietly put back on the rota.
She remains uncertain of what lies ahead but will keep returning to work until, or unless, she is told not to.
Patient Care Assistant Unit Admin Assistant at Houston Methodist Hospital, Madeline Dib has not lost her job, but she has lost her sense of vocation in the fall-out of her hospital’s vaccine mandate.
The 33-year-old explained: ‘I’m Catholic and I got a religious exemption and so I can keep my job but with the stress and anxiety of the process and the atmosphere in the hospital I’m looking for a back-up plan.
‘I have to wear a shield at all times even though I’m always masked and get PCR tested every two weeks.
‘If anyone sees me without a shield for even an instant it’s reported and written up – there’s a culture of people sneaking on those who aren’t vaccinated.
‘It’s really toxic. I just do my job and go home but my whole outlook on nursing has completely changed.
‘I’ve been working my way through nursing school for ten years, paying as I go so I won’t have any debt, but now, I don’t even want to be bedside anymore.’
Should she leave, Dib will be one of the many who, like Cameron, though they haven’t been fired, have walked away or opted for retirement as a result of their opposition to the mandate.
Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Hollie Mulvihill has argued that she should not be forced to receive the vaccine because she has had and recovered from the virus
Flight Attendant Genise Kincannon was granted an exemption but was not offered any accommodation beyond indefinite, unpaid, leave
Spokane Fire Department Battalion Chief David Heizer has done just that. The Washington state firefighter of 29 years wrote to Mayor Nadine Woodward and Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer saying that it was not his choice to abandon his post, but theirs.
Heizer’s religious exemption has been approved by the city, but no accommodations have been made, a fact that, he wrote, left him with no choice.
He wrote: ‘No accommodations is not a choice. Many fire departments have been able to accommodate their members. The decision…shows a lack of concern for the people who have served the community for so long. This is not leadership.’
Heizer will work his last shift October 15 then file for retirement. Forty-eight other Spokane city firefighters are in the same position and so could still lose their jobs.
Captain David Sambrano, who is named in the class action suit, was granted religious exemption on the grounds that he believed the vaccines to be developed using aborted fetal tissue
This is the situation outlined in a federal lawsuit brought by six employees against United Airlines.
The lawsuit obtained by DailyMail.com and filed in the Northern District of Texas argues: ‘United’s actions have left the Plaintiffs with the impossible choice of either taking the COVID-19 vaccine at the expense of their religious beliefs and their health or losing their livelihoods.’
Central to the suit is the fact that United – the first major airline to impose a vaccine mandate on employees when it did so in August – is ‘accommodating’ exempt employees only by offering ‘indefinite periods of unpaid leave,’ during which all benefits are surrendered.
Captain David Sambrano, Stations Operations Representative Kimberly Hamilton, and Flight Attendant Genise Kincannon were all granted religious exemptions on the grounds that they believed the vaccines to be developed using aborted fetal tissue.
Aircraft Technician David Castillo and Customer Service Representative Debra Jennefer Thal Jonas applied for medical exemption on the grounds that they’d already had and recovered from Covid.
And Captain Seth Turnbough was granted a medical exemption on the ground that he has relapsing Multiple Sclerosis and his neurologist recommended against receiving the vaccine as it might trigger a ‘cytokine storm’ – a condition where an individual’s immune system is over-stimulated and begins attacking healthy organs.
But while all these staff members had their exemptions granted none were offered any accommodation beyond indefinite, unpaid, leave.
For Kincannon the loss of health insurance has threatened her husband’s cancer treatment.
For Castillo, a diabetic with high blood pressure, the absence of pay means losing his home and car, jeopardizes his medical coverage and puts his health at risk.
Each has a similar tale of woe. Set against such hardships it might be tempting to suggest that the employees would be better served if they just rolled up their sleeves and had the jab.
After all, there is an often-voiced view that those who resist the vaccine are somehow benighted – making their decisions on fear not fact, driven by conspiracy not coherence.
Certainly, theories run wild across many of the Facebook and support groups that have sprung up in opposition to the mandate. But they are not the fulcrum of the decisions of those to whom DailyMail.com spoke, nor the grounds on which lawsuits have been brought.
Stony Brook, New York, Krystel Walk interacts with a large crowd rainsing their voices against a mandate to get vaccinated or lose their jobs at Stony Brook University
In fact, some of the so-called ‘refuseniks’ argue that they are the ones who have science behind them and not those pushing the mandate.
A class action currently being brought in Colorado against the Department of Defense is a case in point.
Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Hollie Mulvihill and US Army Staff Sergeant Daniel Robert contend that they, and others in their position, should not be forced to receive the vaccine because they have both had and recovered from the virus.
The suit sites a study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic that looked at 2, 579 patients all of whom had previously had Covid across a five-month period. None of the patients, including 1,359 of whom had not been vaccinated, were reinfected.
The study concluded, ‘There is no argument/necessity,’ to vaccinate Covid survivors.
The suit also quotes Dr. Peter McCullough, a renowned cardiologist, former Vice Chief of Internal Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center, professor at A&M University, Texas and editor-in-chief of Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine and Cardiorenal Medicine
McCullough states, ‘Long established precepts of virology demonstrate that the immunity provided by recovery from the actual infection is at least as pronounced and effective, if not many times more so, than any immunity conferred by a vaccine.’
He concluded, ‘Following the science validates and reaffirms the wisdom of maintaining [this] long established virology protocol.’
McCullough is not a lone voice in the wilderness. Dr Marty Makary is a professor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of MedPage. He has written extensively on the subject.
According to Makary pushing a blanket vaccine mandate and ‘the incorrect hypothesis that natural immunity is unreliable,’ has resulted in ‘the loss of thousands of American lives, avoidable vaccine complications and damaged the credibility of public health officials.’
Responding to the White House’s recent vaccine mandate announcement Makary stated, ‘It would be good for our public health leaders to show humility by acknowledging that the hypothesis they repeatedly trumpeted [regarding the superiority of vaccination immunity] was not only wrong but may be harmful.’
Writing in the Washington Post Makary said that ‘downplaying the power of natural immunity,’ in favor of vaccination, ‘has had deadly consequences.’
He said, ‘We can encourage all Americans to get vaccinated while still being honest…Yet when asked the common question, ‘I’ve recovered from covid, is it absolutely essential that I get vaccinated?’ many public health officials put aside the data and responded with a synchronized, ‘Yes.’
Staff Sergeants Mulvihill and Robert are awaiting a decision on their lawsuit. Meanwhile thousands are navigating their way through job-losses and others, with vaccine exemptions, paint a troubling picture of workplace pressure and harassment.
According to Maureen Hurst, ‘I’ve heard of nurses down on their knees with their heads in their hands, in tears, because they don’t want to get the vaccine, but they feel they have no choice because they need their jobs.
‘I’m lucky. I have a supportive family. I have that choice and I’m going to stand my ground.’
It is a sentiment echoed by all of those to whom DailyMail.com spoke.
According to Deborah Conrad, ‘A lot of people are just going to walk away rather than cave and that’s so sad.
‘For me it comes down to not feeling confident that the data is there to convince me of the statistical benefit of having the vaccine as opposed to the risk of an adverse reaction.
‘Maybe down the line that changes and if that’s the case I’ll review things and I’ll make a decision that is what I feel is best for me then.
‘But right now, I have made my choice because your health is more important than a paycheck and if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.’