More than 60% of the health system’s workforce has been vaccinated for the virus.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia University Health System, the state’s largest private employer, announced Monday that it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 31 as COVID-19 cases continue to grow exponentially statewide.

The mandate applies to workers at all of the WVU Health System’s hospitals and clinics in West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and staff working remotely at home or onsite. The health system includes 20 hospitals and five health institutes and has more than 1,000 medical staff and 15,000 employees.

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The move came after the West Virginia Hospital Association announced its support for hospital and health system employee vaccination requirements. And earlier Monday, the U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do,” Albert L. Wright Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, said in a statement.

Wright said the health system has “a higher obligation to our patients as well as to each other. I want WVU Medicine hospitals and clinics to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff. A fully vaccinated workforce will help ensure that safety.”

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More than 60% of the health system’s workforce has been vaccinated for the virus, the statement said. Statewide, about 58% of residents age 12 and up are fully vaccinated.

Wright said the number of unvaccinated staff missing work due to COVID-19 is increasing “and is starting to have a material impact on our patient care mission.”

The number of active virus cases statewide has nearly doubled in the past 10 days to 10,543, its highest since Feb. 15. There were 3,951 new positive cases reported in the past week alone — numbers not seen since late January. The number of people in hospital intensive care units from the virus has doubled to 143 this month, according to state health data.

There have been 470 total confirmed cases of the more contagious delta variant of the virus in 46 counties, a fourfold increase this month.

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