Sheila Connors-Cardinale has been a registered nurse for 42 years.

“I love helping people. I love what I do. I love the people I work with, to me, there’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone and letting them know that I’m going to take good care of them,” said Connors-Cardinale.

But last month, Connors-Cardinale said her previously-approved religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine was overturned and she was prevented from working. Most recently, the Supreme Court upheld the state's vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Connors-Cardinale said she worked at NewYork–Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital through the pandemic and was infected with COVID-19 in March 2020.

“I’m not anti-vaccine. Watching all those people die in 2020, we were praying for something to happen. There needed to be a break, for our patients, for the staff. We were working all hours of the day and night. And they came up with the vaccine, and I’m grateful for that,” said Connors-Cardinale.

Connors-Cardinale said she has antibodies from COVID-19 and does not believe she needs the vaccine.

Her colleague, Theresa McEvoy, also worked through the pandemic and had COVID-19 last January.

“I have natural immunity. I have been healthy, I don’t need it,” said McEvoy.

The Center for Disease Control says experts don’t know how long this protection lasts and still recommends vaccinations because the risk of severe illness outweighs the benefits of natural immunity.

A state health department spokesperson says it’s critical for health care workers to get vaccinated to protect themselves and the vulnerable populations they care for.

NewYork–Presbyterian did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Currently, Connors-Cardinale and McEvoy say they are classified as forced resignations, but both women say they never quit their jobs.

They are ineligible for unemployment and not receiving any medical benefits. Neither plans to get the vaccine.

“I just don’t think it’s necessary. And we’re all glommed together as the unvaccinated. And we all have different stories. And we live in the United States, we should all be able to decide what we want to do,” said Connors-Cardinale.

Connors-Cardinale says while she is in a position to retire, she wants to return to work.