Highlighting regulators’ concern about unvaccinated workers, Colorado just implemented a new rule that unvaccinated nursing home staff should be tested for the virus, using a test fast, every time they come to work. California now requires health care workers in the state to be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.
Feelings are raw among nursing home staff and operators.
“I don’t want to lose anyone else,” said Marita Smith, administrator of the Saint Anne Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Seattle. Eight of the 32 residents died from Covid at the start of the pandemic, including four who were already in palliative care. Ms Smith says the losses help explain why the 52 staff members were vaccinated.
“I question their reason for being in the business if they don’t get it,” Ms. Smith said. “You just don’t want to turn your back. “
Some nursing home staff who resist vaccination claim they can protect residents without being vaccinated. “I come home, I stay home as much as possible, I collect groceries instead of shopping, I 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 because she was not authorized to speak to the media. She added that she wanted to make sure that “the side effects are not worse than protecting someone from Covid.”
But consumer advocates and others point to the long-standing difficulties nursing homes have in protecting residents from infection. A government report released in May found that nursing homes experienced an average of three Covid outbreaks from May 2020 to January 2021, with two-thirds reporting the outbreaks started with an infected staff member testing positive.
At ArchCare, the Catholic group that runs nursing homes and other facilities in New York City, “I think it’s only a matter of time before I have to force the vaccine into all programs,” said said Scott LaRue, CEO.