Institution Announces Staff Vaccination Requirement
Yesterday we announced internally that we will require all Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Hotel Company and Chautauqua Foundation staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 31, 2022 (or by start date for new employees). Now that the FDA has approved vaccines for individuals age 16 and older, following months of emergency approval, we think this is the natural next step for us to take as responsible stewards of community health and safety. The vaccination policy will apply to all employees, including those ages 14–16 who are authorized to receive vaccines under an Emergency Use Authorization.
To be clear, this policy as envisioned currently applies only to Chautauqua Institution staff (full-time, part-time and seasonal) and some other individuals whose functions are similar to those of employees or whose work involves substantial patron interaction. It does not apply to property owners, patrons or guests, nor does it consider use of Institution venues at this time. Due to high rates of community spread and in compliance with the New York State HERO Act, staff also remain required to be masked, regardless of vaccination status, when inside Institution buildings or in close contact with patrons in any context. While it is too early to confirm summer season procedures and requirements, proof of vaccination is likely to be required for attendance at events in Institution venues.
In enacting this vaccination requirement, we acknowledge it may result in employee separations, including some who have worked for the Institution for a long time. We would sincerely and deeply regret losing even one employee as a result of this policy. But we’d be even more regretful if we lost a single life because we weren’t willing to make this difficult decision. For the small number of year-round staff who are not yet vaccinated, the Institution is providing support to help in their decision-making, including by bringing in local trusted medical professionals to answer questions and provide individual consultations. We also recognize this policy could impact our ability to hire new staff and seasonal staff.
Since the pandemic began, we have named community health and safety as our number one priority. Through the policies and procedures we implemented in 2021, we were able to operate in a way that kept our community of staff and patrons safe, though we suffered multiple interruptions of programs and services due to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 exposures and a limited number of verified COVID-19 cases. We believe a vaccine requirement for staff is the best next step to prepare us for smoother and safer operations in 2022, especially considering that more than 65% of our patron population is over the age of 65.
Thank you for your continued vigilance and support. Through steps such as this, we hope to further ensure delivery of a safe and fulsome Chautauqua experience for all who enter our grounds.
All my best,
Michael E. Hill
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