Nursing Homes Confront New COVID Outbreaks Amid Calls for Staff Vaccination Mandates
Nursing homes around the United States saw sharp declines in COVID-19 infections in recent months as more residents were vaccinated. However, the number of cases among nursing home residents and staff approximately tripled from the week of July 4 to the week ending July 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of COVID-19 cases among residents had increased to 1,312, the highest figure reported since early March, CDC said. Additionally, for the week ending July 25, COVID cases among nursing home staff members around the country increased, to 2,145. There are growing calls for vaccine mandates among health care workers; however, they have met with resistance in the nursing home industry. With already high rates of turnover, some nursing homes say mandates would cost them more employees. Government data show that only about 60% of nursing home staff members are vaccinated against COVID-19, with some states reporting even lower rates. Genesis HealthCare, one of the largest nursing home operators in the country, announced it will require vaccines for staff by August 23, explaining that "while we would have greatly preferred a strictly voluntary process, our commitment to health and safety outweighs concerns about imposing a requirement." Meanwhile, some states and cities are imposing their own vaccination mandates on long-term care employees, with operators facing penalties or additional testing requirements for unvaccinated staff. Massachusetts announced that all nursing-home employees must be fully vaccinated by October 1, while California has said health care workers must be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID. San Francisco and Denver have also announced vaccine mandates for employees in high-risk settings, including nursing homes. As new outbreaks sweep through some states, including Florida and Louisiana, some nursing homes are again limiting visitors and imposing other restrictions. CDC said recently it was keeping an eye on the Delta variant's infections in nursing homes to determine if "additional measures are needed."
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