ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – Newly-installed Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin paid Southwest Virginia a visit Monday afternoon to discuss the low vaccination rate across the Commonwealth and especially in Southwest Virginia.

While in town, he also touched on a recent mandate approved by the supreme court. While the land’s highest court blocked OHSA’s ruling on vaccine requirements for establishments with 100 or more employees, that wasn’t the case for the ruling on the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) initiative to vaccinate healthcare workers.


Officials with CMS said in a statement, this most recent ruling is setting the ‘vaccination standard’. According to a release, the CMS vaccine rule will cover 10.4 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities

Under this rule, healthcare workers must have their first shot by Feb. 14 with full compliance by March 15.

However, Governor Youngkin feels this ruling will cause more hurt than help as hospitals in Southwest Virginia and across the state continue to battle staffing shortages.

“Our healthcare heroes have been absolutely going around the clock for two years now and we’re seeing real stress in the system,” said Youngkin.

It’s something the Governor and Ballad CEO Alan Levine agree on. “Let’s be logical and reasonable with the regulatory structure here, why do you want to create a worse staffing problem than we have? One has been inflicted by COVID, and the other will be potentially self-inflicted, which I think is a big mistake,” said Levine.

It’s for that reason Governor Youngkin alongside West Virginia Governor Jim Justice penned a letter to CMS officials requesting a limited waiver; citing that the staffing crisis should mean relief from the rule.

“We’ve asked for an extension or the ability to see our way all the way through to the summer so we can through this period of time,” said Youngkin.

The current rule would mean workers in a healthcare setting must have the first shot by the 14th of this month, but Levine, from a healthcare perspective, told News Channel 11 it’s an impossible choice.

“Comply with people and hurt people potentially, or comply with this one and be out of compliance over here, that’s just not the way you regulate,” said Levine.

Virginia health officials would not weigh in on the letter specifically but did cite the enhanced danger for this specific group if they aren’t vaccinated.

“If you’re in a healthcare setting, you’re going to be more at risk of COVID along with other things that you are exposed to but absolutely, those folks are the most at risk of COVID and the ill effects of it and that’s why that group was the first to even be offered the vaccine,” said Mount Rogers Health District Population Health Manager, Breanne Forbes Hubbard.

If CMS denies the request, Youngkin said he and his team will work different angles to accomplish this goal.

“We’re looking at every avenue possible in order to make sure our hospitals stay staffed,” he said.