Employees of Wake Forest Baptist Health, which includes Wilkes Medical Center in North Wilkesboro, and other major hospital systems in North Carolina must get vaccinated for COVID-19 to continue working at those facilities.

The N.C. Healthcare Association announced that in addition to Wake Forest Baptist Health, hospital systems that will compel staff to get vaccinated are Novant Health, Duke University Health network, UNC Health, Atrium Health and Cone Health.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and parent company Atrium Health set an Oct. 31 deadline for all employees to be vaccinated. Employees received word of this in emails sent on Thursday.

“Hospital and health system employee vaccination against COVID-19 is vital to safely care for patients by protecting them from infection, and to mitigate the spread of the virus within healthcare facilities and among clinicians, patients and their families and friends,” the association wrote in a message to its 130 members.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that As of Thursday, 57% of adult North Carolinians and 33% of all Wilkes County residents were fully vaccinated.

Health officials say the delta variant of COVID-19 makes up 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States. It accounts for between 50% and 60% of cases in North Carolina.

DHHS told the Associated Press Thursday that 94% of cases and deaths reported between May 6 and July 11 have been among people not fully vaccinated.

North Carolinians 12 years of age or older are eligible for a COVID-19 shot, which are widely available and free of charge.

At participating vaccination sites, unvaccinated people 18 and older who come in for their first dose can get $25. Drivers who bring someone in for their initial shot also qualify for the prepaid Mastercard. These will be offered Aug. 5-30 in Wilkes County.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, DHHS director, praised the association for encouraging hospitals to compel their workers to get vaccinated.

“Thank you to the North Carolina Healthcare Association, and the health systems that are leading the way requiring vaccination for employees, for taking action to protect the health care workforce, their patients, our communities and the state,” Cohen said in a news release. “Vaccinations are our way out of the pandemic. Don’t wait to vaccinate.”

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