CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) — Data shows the rise in COVID-19 infections in nursing homes is linked to staff. President Biden announced all long-term care facilities must require vaccination of their employees, or face a loss of government funding from Medicare/ Medicaid.
Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris fully supports Biden’s new push.
“If you have a staff person that comes into a facility like that, even though most of the clients are, are vaccinated, there’s still the potential for infection,” said Harris.
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid shows about 80% of long-term care residents in North Carolina are vaccinated; Mecklenburg County sits at 92%. But only 54% of the staff that works at those facilities got the vaccine, which is below the national average of 60%.
“In most cases, it’s mostly staff, they’re infected. But we are seeing a few breakthrough cases in the clients in these facilities as well. So we don’t want that to continue,” Harris said.
Harris thinks the threat of losing federal funding will give these facilities a much-needed push to get their staff vaccinated.
“It’s hard to know exactly what kind of impact this is going to have. The intent is for it to make those facilities a safer place for the residents and for the staff for that matter. And hopefully, that’s the way it’s taken. And that’s the impact that a hash.”
The North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association fears this mandate creates a workforce shortage. A representative issued the following statement:
“We appreciate the Administration’s efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term care. Unfortunately, this action does not go far enough,” Harris added. “The government should not single out one provider group for mandatory vaccinations. Vaccination mandates for health care personnel should be applied to all health care settings. Without this, nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge.
“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents. It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse. The net effect of this action will be the opposite of its intent and will affect the ability to provide quality care to our residents. We look forward to working with the Administration in the coming days to develop solutions to overcome this challenge.”