SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — All hospitals and health care facilities in Illinois must begin keeping records that monitor vaccination status and Coronavirus test results for all of their staff, according to a new emergency rule issued by the state on Friday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health quietly filed the emergency rules with the Secretary of State’s office at the close of the first week under Governor Pritzker’s new vaccine mandate for health care workers. Pritzker’s mandate would require all workers at health care facilities and schools to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. The new reporting and record-keeping rules apply to hospitals, assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, sheltered care facilities, veterans homes, and a variety of other health care facilities licensed with the state, and go into effect immediately.
“Each establishment shall maintain a record of fully vaccinated staff, unvaccinated staff, and weekly testing,” the rules say, though they offer no specific instructions on how facilities should report that information to the state.
“The emergency rule is silent on how they are going to collect,” Danny Chun with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said in a phone call on Monday. “You can’t just turn on a light switch and start a new reporting system ‘effective immediately.'”
The new emergency rules don’t appear to allow any room for unvaccinated health care workers to decline a Coronavirus test.
“Staff who are not fully vaccinated may be permitted to enter or work at the establishment while they are waiting to receive the results of their weekly test,” the rules say. Otherwise, the state rules mandate that any workers who refuse the vaccine for religious or medical reasons “shall undergo the testing requirements.”
The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act says, “It is the public policy of the State of Illinois to respect and protect the right of conscience of all persons who refuse to obtain, receive or accept…health care services and medical care…and to prohibit all forms of discrimination, disqualification, coercion, disability or imposition of liability upon such persons or entities by reason of their refusing to act contrary to their conscience or conscientious convictions in providing, paying for, or refusing to obtain, receive, accept, deliver, pay for, or arrange for the payment of health care services and medical care.”
When asked last week if his new executive orders mandating vaccines and tests clashed with state law, Pritzker dodged the legal question, and shifted the focus to public safety.
“What we put in place is something that is workable, something that the vast majority of people are going to be following,” Pritzker responded. “I know that there are people who are attempting to challenge these things in court. I would just say that this is a very unhelpful thing to do, and it is going to make schools and healthcare settings less safe.”
New medical research released by the CDC earlier this month showed unvaccinated people were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who were fully vaccinated.