LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville's mayor and local health experts applauded local hospitals Tuesday for requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Norton Healthcare and Baptist Health announced that move Monday, joining U of L Health, which implemented the requirement in May.

The hospital systems said the rapid spread of the delta variant, primarily among those who are unvaccinated, is the reason for the mandate.

"When you go into a hospital setting or health care setting, in particular, you expect to deal with folks who protected themselves," Mayor Greg Fischer said. "So I applaud, U of L, Baptist and Norton for taking that step. It's an important step yesterday and sends a good message to the community."

Local public health officials said health care facilities are among the top places where people are catching COVID-19.

"Our contact tracing shows that travel, social events, and healthcare settings are the three patient exposure settings where residents have reported being prior," said Connie Mendel, deputy director of Metro Louisville Public Health and Wellness.

But not everyone is happy with the vaccine mandate.

A group formed on Facebook is planning a "Protest for Medical Freedom" outside Baptist Health in Elizabethtown on Wednesday morning.

Organizer Brittany Smith, who said she works in radiology, posted a video encouraging healthcare workers to participate.

"Even if you have gotten your vaccine, and you're still pro-medical freedom, please show up. We want to see you there. We need your support. We need the community's support," Smith said. "It's a very difficult time for a lot of us."

Dr. Mark Burns of U of L Health said "healthcare workers are people, too" but admitted he is discouraged by the vaccine resistance among some.

"They should understand the severity and importance of being protected, being an example and protecting our patients which is the most vital thing for us."

The hospitals say there will be vaccine exceptions for approved religious and medical reasons.

Fischer said he currently has no plans to require vaccinations for the city's frontline workers, including police and fire. City employees are required to wear masks inside city buildings.

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