Unvaxxed cancer patients were excluded from Rochester treatment housing during COVID

A Minnesota mom and nurse told Alpha News she was still denied housing this month at Hope Lodge in Rochester because of her vaccination status, even though the organization recently changed its vaccination policy.

Sarah Copeland, pictured here before and after chemotherapy.

A Minnesota nurse and mother fighting breast cancer says she has been denied free housing by the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge because of her decision not to get the COVID vaccine.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the organization recently changed its policy to allow unvaccinated patients without informing her.

Sarah Copeland, 44, underwent regular rounds of chemotherapy from February to June, and then surgery on July 25, to treat her stage 2 breast cancer. She suffered symptoms of severe fatigue, sores, and nausea despite taking antiemetics and natural medicines. She lost all of her hair.

Now with a weeks-long schedule of daily radiation treatment beginning Oct. 18, Copeland planned to stay at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Rochester, at no cost to her and just one block away from the Mayo Clinic. She lives too far away to drive back and forth.

But she says Hope Lodge told her earlier this month she wouldn’t be admitted because of her vaccination status. The facility only allowed medical exemptions in some cases. The religious exemption she received to continue working as a registered nurse was not applicable, she said.

Copeland, who’s built up some natural immunity thanks to two previous COVID infections, told Alpha News it was “super frustrating” to hear the news one month before beginning her radiation.

“Nobody ever told me I had to be COVID-vaccinated,” she said, explaining that it was her plan all along to stay there. “The biggest thing is when I was planning out my finances.”

“I felt like it was so discriminatory.”

It turns out, however, that Copeland actually doesn’t need to be vaccinated to stay at Hope Lodge anymore. It’s just that no Hope Lodge staff member told her. Or at least no one she spoke with knew about their employer’s recent policy change.

A Hope Lodge spokesperson told Alpha News that one month ago the organization amended its policy to allow patients to furnish proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for admittance. Prior to that only proof of vaccination was acceptable.

But even after ostensibly changing the policy in light of new CDC guidelines, Hope Lodge staff still informed Copeland over the phone and on her paperwork that she had to be vaccinated — which is why she recently scrambled to find last-minute housing on her own dime, she told Alpha News.

Copeland says she was provided with this paperwork earlier this month saying she needs to be vaccinated.

Copeland has already invested over $500 in a non-refundable deposit for a place hosted by a Christian nonprofit organization. She’s set to pay almost $2,000 more if she chooses to stay there for the duration of her treatment.

Now she’s undecided on whether she will stick with them or try to deal with Hope Lodge again.

The Hope Lodge spokesperson could not comment on Copeland’s situation due to medical privacy laws but apologized for “any type of confusion” surrounding the organization’s admittance policy.

Back in February a GoFundMe page was created for Copeland and her husband Trevor, who suffered his third stroke a month prior and temporarily cannot work as a cath lab technician because of his disabled left hand and arm.

“He is making great strides with [physical therapy] and [occupational therapy], but there is no clear path to when he will be fully recovered. He is receiving short term disability from work, but this is only a fraction of what his usual income is,” the page reads.

Sarah and Trevor Copeland are parents to a young daughter. The family is looking to raise at least $15,000, and as of Sept. 23 they have received $9,000.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.