Staff immunization has been an issue in many states, especially as the highly contagious Delta variant races through regions with low vaccination rates. On Monday, one of the nation’s largest nursing-home operators, Genesis HealthCare, said it will mandate vaccines for staff by Aug. 23, noting “while we would have greatly preferred a strictly voluntary process, our commitment to health and safety outweighs concerns about imposing a requirement.”
Some states and cities, not waiting for the nursing home industry, are imposing their own mandates for vaccinations on long-term care employees or operators may face penalties or additional testing requirements for unvaccinated staff. Massachusetts on Wednesday said all nursing-home staff must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, while California last week said health care workers must be immunized or be tested weekly for Covid.
San Francisco and Denver have each announced a vaccine mandate for workers in high risk settings, including nursing homes.
New outbreaks in some states, including Florida, Colorado, Indiana and Louisiana, have forced some homes to once again limit visitors and impose other restrictions. The C.D.C. said on Friday that it was monitoring the Delta variant’s infections in nursing homes to see if “additional measures are needed.”
“The bottom line is the vaccine is the No. 1, 2 and 3 thing we have to fight this pandemic, everywhere, but especially in nursing homes,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, who has reluctantly come to believe mandates are necessary.
So far, the nursing home industry has stopped short of endorsing a vaccination mandate, even as major medical organizations have signed onto calls for the requirement among health care workers, and as more hospitals are requiring the vaccine for employees.
Last week, the American Health Care Association, the nursing home industry’s main trade group, instead said it supported continued efforts to educate workers.