Steve Burton has been fired from General Hospital over his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Fans have been suspecting for weeks this might be the case as reports of tension on set over COVID protocols leaked to the public when General Hospital production mandated actors and crew get vaccinated. Burton confirmed the news via Instagram on Tuesday. ABC confirmed Burton's firing to Variety.
"I wanted you to hear it from me personally," he said. "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."
Burton has played Jason Morgan, née Quartermaine, on and off since 1991. He's been an institution on the series, which is ABC's singular soap and only one of four left on daytime TV. Friday's episode ended with a tunnel collapse on Cassadain Island, with Jason presumed dead under the rubble, but Burton was not able to confirm when his official last air date would be. He did say that he is open to returning to the show in the future.
"Maybe one day if these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan. That would be an honor," he said in the Instagram video, before explaining how important it is to be grateful at this time of year.
The character of Jason Morgan has been played by other actors occasionally over the years so Burton could focus on musical pursuits, but it remains unclear if he will be recast at this venture or if Jason is dead... for now. Characters have been known to come back from the dead before on the soap opera but it leaves no question that losing Jason will have devastating effects for the central characters on the show, including his best friend and wife Carly (Laura Wright).
Burton's exit comes on the heels of his co-star Ingo Rademacher's departure. The latter star was also let go over his refusal to get the vaccine and because he posted transphobic remarks on his social media account. The statements were rebuked by his General Hospital co-star, Cassandra James, who is trans, and Nancy Lee Grahn, who plays Jax's best friend Alexis on the series. Rademacher played Jasper Jax on the series for 25 years, but his last episode aired Monday with his character declaring he was "on the outs" with everyone in Port Charles.
Rademacher commented on Burton's social media post saying, "Well said my friend," with a prayer hands emoji. Burton's co-star Maurice Bernard, who plays Jason's longtime mentor Sonny Corinthos also commented with his support replying, "It takes Lotta guts i will miss you."
General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for time.