Nursing home COVID-19 concerns amid federal vaccine requirement for staff

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 4:02 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin’s nursing homes are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Nursing home officials point to the highly contagious delta variant as the source of these breakthrough infections and say most residents only experience mild symptoms. Another topic of concern is nursing home staff vaccination rates.

In Wisconsin, about 60% of nursing home staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine but officials are hoping for higher numbers. “Our facilities, since the vaccine became available have educated and begged employees to get vaccinated but at this point for whatever reason close to 40% of our employees have declined the vaccine,” said Rick Abrams.

Abrams is the President and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living. He says when President Biden first made the announcement that nursing home and long term care staff would be required to be vaccinated, that raised some concerns about how the mandate could impact ongoing labor shortages.

The latest federal mandate will require all employees at businesses with a staff of 100 or more to be vaccinated. It’s part of a six point plan to address the pandemic in the United State. Abrams says he hopes this will level the playing field in the labor across the labor market.

Keeping the virus under control in nursing homes and long term care facilities remains the priority.

“There have been a lot of difficult moments throughout the pandemic but the most difficult for us was when we had to cease all resident visitation...that’s not the direction we do not want to go back in,” said Abrams.

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