TAMPA (WFLA) – Southwest Florida’s biggest health care provider announced on Thursday it will follow new federal rules and mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees.

BayCare, which runs 14 acute-care hospitals in the Tampa Bay area and employs over 28,000 employees, said 44 percent of their employees are currently unvaccinated.

The announcement comes following President Joe Biden on Thursday announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

We respect the decision made by our elected official and BayCare will take the necessary action to comply,” said Chief Executive Officer Tommy Inzina in a statement on the firm’s website.

The health care provider hesitated at first to require a vaccine due to the potential of medical staffers quitting.

“As the region’s largest provider of health care, BayCare has faced a conundrum,” he said. “As much as we would like to mandate the vaccine for our team members, in this moment with the strain on our team, we believed a mandate could have a negative impact on health care access for our community.”