DULUTH – Essentia Health dismissed nearly 50 employees Monday for choosing to not get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The 49 employees amount to less than half a percent of the Duluth-based health care organization's workforce, which is about 14,100 people in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

More than 99% of employees are either vaccinated or have applied for an exemption, with a deadline of Nov. 1, the organization said. It announced the deadline in August.

"While we're sad to see them leave, we respect their decisions," Essentia Health said in a statement, noting these employees were eligible for rehiring if they get vaccinated. "For the overwhelming majority of our colleagues who have complied, we are grateful for their unwavering commitment to patient care."

Essentia continues to review exemption requests, which could result in more dismissals.

St. Luke's hospital set an Oct. 1 deadline, and terminated 27 employees, nearly 1% of roughly 3,000 employees. It did not immediately provide updated numbers Tuesday.

Last week, 36 people were admitted with COVID-19 to St. Louis County hospitals.

Community transmission in the county remains ranked at a "high" level, with a testing positivity level of nearly 9%.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450