Summer is around the corner and Wyoming's St. John's Health Hospital has decided to offer up to $600 bonuses for healthcare workers willing to get fully vaccinated before tourists flock to Teton County's famous national parks.
"Despite the pandemic, last summer was some of our busiest yet with tourists from around the country visiting Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park," said Karen Connelly, who works as the chief communications officer for St. John's Health.
In a meeting on Friday afternoon the board of trustees at the hospital passed the "COVID safety" bonus program with unanimous support. Over $500,000 was allotted toward the program.
The impending wave of tourism is one of the reasons hospital employees are being encouraged to get fully vaccinated by May 31. Workers able to get fully vaccinated will receive a one-time bonus of $600 prorated, based on hours worked, by June. Currently 74% of staff are vaccinated, twice the rate of the surrounding area of Teton County.
Over 13,000 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given out to those over the age of 16 in Teton County, as of April 12. Nearly 900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have also been administered. The public information officer of Wyoming's Department of Public Health, Kim Deti, said in a statement "We are working to encourage vaccination across the state. If employers want to offer incentives, that is their decision."
According to the New York Times, the community is still considered high risk for COVID exposure, with about 5 cases reported per day. The report shows hospitalization rates for people with COVID have risen by 35% over the past 14 days, but the amount of cases per 100,000 people has fallen by nearly half in the last month. Compared with neighboring counties, such as Sublette, Wyo., Teton has less than half the amount of people testing positive for the virus and over twice the amount of vaccinated residents.
Teton County staff and residents have been largely compliant with local safety regulations, which include a mask mandate for anyone over the age of 12-years-old.Connelly says while some staff have tried to hold out on getting the vaccine until more options are on the market, the incentives proposed are intended to bring hospital vaccination rates up to 90%