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INL director announces vaccination rate, future plans regarding COVID

Coronavirus

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IDAHO FALLS — Idaho National Laboratory director John Wagner sent a message to employees this week updating them on the INL’s COVID-19 status heading into a new year.

In an internal memo dated Dec. 15, Wagner said 99% of staff are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an accommodation in place. That number will reach 100% as the INL approaches final vaccination deadlines for its represented employees, according to Wagner.

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“We estimate that fewer than 100 staff members left the laboratory because of the vaccine requirement,” Wagner said in the email. “We do not know the exact number because employees leave for many reasons, including retirement. Those who left were not terminated. They voluntarily resigned, which means they are eligible to be rehired if they receive the vaccine.”

Wagner acknowledged there have been questions regarding the federal vaccination requirement in the news lately, but he said INL will continue to require vaccination as a condition of employment.

“Battelle Energy Alliance is committed to negotiating this policy with union leadership,” he said. “With current levels of community spread and risks identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I believe this requirement is both necessary and justified.”

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He added the INL has heard from “many employees” that they appreciate and support the vaccination requirement. Wagner said having a vaccinated staff is the best way the INL can ensure the safety and well-being of everyone.

“This was a difficult choice for many. I appreciate these employees’ contributions to our laboratory and respect their decision,” he wrote. “At the same time, I am grateful to the vast majority of our staff, who chose to get vaccinated and continue supporting our mission.”

In the message, Wagner also mentions there are employees who transitioned to telework nearly two years ago. He said some of them will continue to work from home, but they are planning for the return of those who will be coming back to INL facilities. A specific date hasn’t been set, but Wagner said the INL is planning for early February.

“This pandemic has been a long journey. I don’t know when it ends, or what our new normal will look like, but I am grateful for your diligence. We have continued to work hard and produce great results while dealing with unprecedented challenges,” Wagner expressed. “Through it all, we have looked out for each other, our families, and our communities.”

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