NEW WINDSOR, Orange County (WABC) -- The fates of an adult care facility in Orange County and the people who work there are in the hands of a federal judge who will decide if a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to health care workers.
Paul Lockwood, the owner of the New Windsor Country Inn, knows the court is unlikely to rule in his favor.
Half of his 22 staffers are not fully vaccinated, and that presents a significant problem for Lockwood, the inn's owner since 1983.
"I'm going to have to let some employees go," he said. "They are aware of that. And then I'm going to have to cover those shifts, obviously, as well as we can."
Under New York's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a religious exemption to the shot is not allowed for health care workers.
Lockwood, and many other facility owners across the state, are anxiously awaiting that federal court ruling expected Tuesday, as the judge will decide whether to maintain the status quo or allow the exemption, thereby clearing the way for unvaccinated workers to stay on the job.
Federal Judge David Hurd extended his temporary restraining order on the religious exemption ban to Tuesday, an indication he would rule by then. But he could also allow his temporary restraining order to expire, or he could extend it again.
There is another court hearing scheduled on this same topic Thursday, in the US Court of Appeals in Lower Manhattan. That is a higher court, and Judge Hurd could also defer to that ruling.
And even if he does rule, his decision still might still be pending the appellate level anyway.
No matter when a decision is reached, a ruling for the state means Lockwood won't have enough staff to care for the 33 residents at his facility, and finding temporary or part-time help has been virtually impossible.
"There's a set formula of staff that we have to have," he said. "So we've already told some of those people who are going to be here remaining that we are going to be busy and don't plan any vacations."
In the end, Lockwood might also have to move some residents to another facility.
Doris Greenwood isn't sold on the religious exemption argument, and the 87-year-old resident said the unvaccinated workers should roll up their sleeve.
"My thoughts are they should get them," she said. "Because if they get ill, they can no longer work, so they are of no help to us. And we need their help."
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