GENERAL HOSPITAL - The Emmy-winning daytime drama "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH19(ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)STEVE BURTON
Credit: ABC

After nearly 30 years (off and on), General Hospital and Steve Burton have parted ways. “I know there’s been a lot of rumors and speculation about me and [the show],” he said in a November 23 Instagram post, “and I wanted you to hear it from me personally. Unfortunately, General Hospital has let me go, because of the vaccine mandate” that was put in place to safeguard the cast and crew from COVID-19.

“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions, and both of those were denied, which, ya know, hurts,” he added. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anybody should lose their livelihood over this.”

Despite the circumstances surrounding his exit as Jason, Burton remains upbeat. “I’ll always be grateful for my time on General Hospital,” he said. “I grew up there.”

When the actor joined the ABC soap’s cast as the Quartermaine golden boy in 1991, he was already a showbiz vet, having appeared on the sitcom Out of This World and NBC’s Days of Our Lives. But it was General Hospital that made him a star, in particular after Jason was involved in a car accident that transformed him into a black-T-shirt-wearing Mafia tough guy. (Review his entire history on the show via this photo-filled scrapbook.)

From there, the future Emmy winner was catapulted into one popular romance (Jason/Robin) after another (Jason/Elizabeth) after another (Jason/Sam). When Burton left General Hospital in 2012 — to join The Young and the Restless as Paul Williams and Nikki Newman’s surprise son, Dylan McAvoy — his character was killed off, then resurrected with Billy Miller (ex-Billy, Young & Restless) in the role.

jason drew Steve Burton, Billy Miller"General Hospital" SetThe Prospect StudiosABC Studios11/01/17© XJJohnson/jpistudios.com310-657-9661Episode # 13942U.S. Airdate 12/1/17

In 2017, Burton returned to General Hospital, at which point Miller’s Jason was said to not be Jason after all but his twin brother, Drew (now played by Cameron Mathison, All My Children’s former Ryan). Though JaSam was reunited — review their history here — they were subsequently broken up, and Jason moved on to relationships with reformed villainess Britt and “widow” Carly.

Even in “death,” the character is poised to impact the canvas in a major way. (Details here.)

In real life, Burton, a graduate of Beverly Hills High, has been married to Sheree Gustin since 1999 and is a father of three. In August, the leading man disclosed that he had been exposed to COVID at work and had tested positive.

As for the future, the actor said in his Instagram story that he believes when one door closes, another opens. And who knows? “Maybe one day, if these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan,” he said. “That would be an honor.

“And if not,” he went on, “I’m gonna take this amazing experience, move forward and be forever grateful.” (You can watch Burton’s announcement in full, including his message to you, below.)

While you absorb the news that it will not be a Stone Cold winter in Port Charles, review all of the soap’s latest cast changes with our photo-filled scorecard.