Steve Burton is leaving “General Hospital” after nearly three decades because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Two weeks after Ingo Rademacher exited the long-running ABC soap opera for the same reason, Burton announced on Instagram Tuesday that he was let go from “General Hospital” because he didn’t comply with the production’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement. A person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly about Burton’s departure confirmed the news to USA TODAY, adding that his last episode was filmed on Oct. 27.
“I wanted you to hear it from me personally,” said Burton, who’s portrayed Jason Morgan since 1991. “Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate. I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions, and both of those were denied. Which, you know, hurts. But this is also about personal freedom to me.”
The 51-year-old continued: “I don’t think anybody should lose their livelihood over this.”
USA TODAY has reached out to ABC. Burton’s representative declined to provide further comment to USA TODAY.
Burton has portrayed Jason Morgan on “General Hospital” from 1991 to 2012 and 2017 to present. Burton returned as Morgan after a five-year stint on CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” from 2013 to 2017. In 2007, he played Morgan in the “General Hospital” spin-off “Night Shift,” which lasted two seasons.
He won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for Morgan in 1998.
“I’ll always be grateful for my time on ‘General Hospital.’ I love it there, I grew up there,” Burton said in his video, adding he’s hopeful to reprise his role. “Maybe one day if these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan. That would be an honor.”
“I don’t know what my last air date is, it may have aired or it might be tomorrow or the next day, I’m not sure,” Burton added in his video.
Rademacher, who exited the show earlier this month, commented under Burton’s post, writing, “Well said my friend.”
Earlier this month, Rademacher left his leading role of Jasper “Jax” Jacks because he refused to comply with the production’s vaccine mandate. His final episode aired Monday.
“Getting vaccinated should be a choice and should not be forced on anyone,” Rademacher said on Instagram following news of his exit. “I will fight for medical freedom and the right to choose.”
For some months now, the “General Hospital” cast has been outspoken about COVID-19 and vaccine mandates. In August, Nancy Lee Grahn, who has played Alexis Davis since 1996, publicly called on the Screen Actors Guild labor union to address COVID-19 safety protocols on set.
“I work on a set with unmasked, unvaccinated actors, because my union thus far @sagaftra has allowed this. Full stop,” Grahn tweeted on Aug. 12.
A day later, Burton announced that he tested positive for COVID-19. “I was exposed at work,” he said in a video to his fans on Aug. 13. “I feel fine, I have no symptoms.”
According to Variety, ABC’s “General Hospital” is the only soap opera that has instituted a vaccine mandate of the four remaining daytime dramas airing on major networks. NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” and CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” rely on testing and other CDC-recommended guidelines, the outlet said.