Dozens gather in Cortland to protest healthcare vaccine mandate, advocate for religious exemption

Local News

CORTLAND, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Dozens of people gathered in Cortland Saturday afternoon to protest against the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers as many await a legal decision on whether religious exemptions will be permitted or not.

In attendance was Denise Derusha who moved to Cortland in 2018 when her health was deteriorating. She said no one could figure out what was wrong, until she met Krista Taylor.

“She was my very favorite nurse at Family Health Network,” Derusha said. 

That’s because they shared an unusual bond, they both suffer from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome also known as POTS, a chronic disorder that causes fainting and other symptoms. 

“I didn’t know how much I appreciated her until she understood the POTS… she showed my family compassion all the time, never short with us, never fought us over decisions, just we always got the best care,” Derusha said.

But now she fears her care is going to decline if Taylor’s religious exemption is declined. 

Taylor has been working at Family Health Network for over four years as a medical assistant. She said she is against the vaccine mandate because the vaccine goes against her Christian religious beliefs. 

“I truly believe that Jesus is my vaccine,” Taylor said.

According to Taylor she submitted a religious exemption before the vaccine mandate deadline and it was approved by her employer, but she believes come Monday she will be let go from her position. 

And Taylor won’t be the only one leaving. She said five to six employees had already quit instead of getting the vaccine and two others also submitted religious exemptions. 

The protest took place right across the street from Family Health Network where a digital sign out front listed multiple positions they were hiring for. 

“I’ve already noticed that the office is more short tempered, it’s not as friendly, it’s not a place I recognize anymore,” Derusha said. 

If Taylor is let go from her position she said God will provide for her adding, “I have no clue what I’m gonna do, but I’m okay with that.” 

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