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Essentia fires 49 unvaccinated employees

Duluth-based Essentia Health announced its employee vaccine mandate in early August.

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The Essentia Health construction site in Duluth on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Essentia Health has fired 49 employees for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccination or applying for an exemption, the Duluth-based health care system confirmed. The employees were dismissed Monday after receiving a notice of "intent to terminate" in October .

"While we’re sad to see them leave, we respect their decisions," Essentia said in a statement. "We appreciate their good work, wish them well and these individuals are eligible for rehire at Essentia Health if they change their mind."

In the statement, Essentia said more than 99% of its workforce is vaccinated or has applied for an exemption. The company employs about 14,000 people. Exemption requests are still being evaluated, and Essentia said in the statement that the full impact on staffing will not be known until the evaluations are complete.

Essentia announced at the beginning of August that employees would be required to have either received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine or filed for an exemption from the mandate by Oct. 1.

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Dr. Bill Heegaard has been president of Essentia's West Market, which covers eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, since April 2020.
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