HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Some Virginia nursing homes are now joining the list of businesses calling for a vaccine mandate for all employees. LeadingAge Virginia, an association that represents 130 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement communities and adult daycares in the Commonwealth is pushing for a vaccine mandate for all long-term care workers.
“It is imperative that the workers that we bring into our communities be vaccinated,” President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia, Melissa Andrews said.
Last week, LeadingAge which across the United States represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, including in Virginia, joined the national call for a vaccine requirement for all long-term care employees. The move comes with the resurgence of COVID-19 and the growing concerns surrounding the highly infectious Delta variant.
Andrews said long-term care providers have an ethical obligation to get vaccinated.
“We just think if we make vaccination a condition of employment, we are going to be able to provide much safer, much higher quality of care,” said Andrews.
Andrews said most long-term care residents have been vaccinated in Virginia. However, as of last week, the number of nursing home staff rolling up their sleeves is disappointing.
She said, “We still have around a third of health care workers I believe that are unvaccinated in long-term care, so we need to right that wrong.”
Many of the Commonwealth’s earliest and deadliest coronavirus outbreaks happened inside long-term care facilities. Fifty residents died during an outbreak last year inside Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare center in Henrico County.
Long-term care facilities accounted for about 37% of the state’s total COVID deaths according to data provided by the Virginia Department of Health before July 1.
Governor Ralph Northam ended his emergency order on July 1 and Virginia has stopped providing information on COVID-19 outbreaks in individual facilities.
Andrews told 8News some LeadingAge Virginia facilities have already gone ahead and implemented a vaccine requirement for all staff to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1.
She said long-term care providers have an important role and have been showing up for the work. She hopes they continue to show up but come vaccinated.
“We know that the vaccine is the most effective strategy to combat COVID,” Andrews said.
Innovative Healthcare Management which locally owns Westport Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Glenburnie Rehabilitation and Nursing Center also support a vaccine mandate for staff. They are anticipating more guidance soon from the CDC but told us:
“Innovative supports the call from AHCA, LeadingAge and others to mandate the Covid-19 Vaccine among staff in Nursing Homes. The development of effective and safe vaccines has dramatically reduced COVID-19 cases and the severity of illness in long-term care. However, as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, unvaccinated individuals remain at high risk and can spread the virus to others, including vaccinated individuals. Our residents are some of the most vulnerable individuals to the consequences of contracting COVID-19. Despite vaccination rates above the national average, the growing spread of the Delta variant makes clear that we need to increase our vaccination rates substantially to better protect our patients, residents and employees. We are actively working on a strictly voluntary process and it is actually our preferred route, however if we do not see the substantial results, our commitment to health and safety outweighs concerns about imposing a requirement. The COVID-19 vaccination provides the safest and most effective way to ensure the health and welfare of our patients, residents and staff.”