Nursing Homes Confront New Covid Outbreaks Amid Calls for Staff Vaccination Mandates

To underscore regulatory concerns about unvaccinated workers, Colorado just introduced a new rule requiring unvaccinated nursing home workers to be tested for the virus with a rapid test every time they come to work. California now requires state health care workers to get vaccinated or undergo frequent tests.

The feelings of the nursing staff and the operator are rough.

“I don’t want to lose anyone anymore,” said Marita Smith, administrator of the Saint Anne Nursing and Rehab Center in Seattle. Eight out of 32 residents died of Covid at the beginning of the pandemic, including four who were already in the hospice. Ms. Smith says the losses explain why all 52 employees were vaccinated.

“I doubt why they’re in business if they don’t understand,” Ms. Smith said. “You just don’t want to turn your back.”

Some nursing home workers who oppose vaccinations argue that they can protect residents without being vaccinated. “I go home, stay at home as often as possible, pick up groceries instead of shopping, wash my hands a lot. I don’t expose myself to other people, ”said Jessica M., director of nursing at a home in Grand Junction, Colorado, who is not vaccinated.

She declined to give her last name as she was not allowed to speak to the media. She added that she wanted to make sure that “the side effects are no worse than protecting someone from Covid”.

But consumer advocates and others point to the difficulties nursing homes have long had in protecting residents from infection. A government report released in May found that nursing homes had an average of three Covid outbreaks from May 2020 to January 2021, with two-thirds reporting that the outbreaks began with a positive test from an infected employee.

At ArchCare, the Catholic group that operates nursing homes and other facilities in New York City, “I think it’s only a matter of time before I have to prescribe the vaccine for all programs,” said Scott LaRue, the executive director.

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