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Some worried about vaccine crackdown in nursing homes

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

The Biden administration is cracking down on nursing homes by requiring all workers to get vaccinated in an effort to protect our most vulnerable.

But nursing home leaders are concerned workers will quit because of the federal government’s new requirement. We know at this point many people who have not been vaccinated do not want to be vaccinated. Some of those people work in nursing homes.

In 2020, we reported about Mary Daniel, who took a job washing dishes at her husband’s assisted living facility, so she could see him, hug him and hold him when the state locked them down at the start of the pandemic.

“COVID kills we certainly understand that now,” Daniel said. “But we also understand that isolation kills too.”

Daniel does not want her husband isolated ever again, but that would be the case if he ever contracted COVID-19. So she’s relieved President Joe Biden will require all nursing homes to ensure their workers are vaccinated against it.

“If you are a worker who was working in an inpatient facility and you profess to care and love about the disabled and the elderly, you have to protect them as best you can,” Daniel said. “And that means getting the vaccine.”

Less than half of Florida’s long-term care workers are vaccinated. Those vaccination rates vary strongly from facility to facility.

According to the latest data available, Solaris Senior Living in North Naples has the highest vaccination rate in Lee, Collier or Charlotte counties at 80.5%. Evans Health Care are in Fort Myers is at 4.4.%.

Nursing homes that don’t comply will risk the loss of critical federal funding from Medicare and Medicaid.

So what happens when unvaccinated employees simply quit?

“That means that all of our loved ones in these facilities, their caregivers disappear overnight,” said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care. “And so, then, they’re left in jeopardy because the workforce walked out.”

“And if they lose their funding, that means the nursing homes could potentially close,” Lee said.

Lee believes nursing home staff should be vaccinated, but prefers cash incentives rather than a mandate. His group looked at 36 nursing homes that now have a 100% vaccination rate, and in those 36, he told us there are has only been one COVID-19 infection.

MORE: COVID-19 Nursing Home Data