ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester area's largest healthcare system says the vast majority of its employees remain on the job after religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate came to an end on Monday.

Strong Memorial Hospital Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Parrinello says of the roughly 15,000 employees in clinical departments, fewer than 300 people remain unvaccinated. She says other staff members are stepping in and picking up extra shifts and the hospital system continues to recruit and hire permanent and temporary workers.

"It's important to understand that the staffing challenges we are facing are a national issue in health care and in many other industries across the country and are mostly unrelated to the vaccine mandate," said Parrinello. "Strong has been working for months to minimize the impacts on patient care caused by these staffing shortages."

Medical exemptions to the vaccine are still allowed. Parrinello says staff members who change their minds and do get vaccinated will be allowed to return to their jobs.