Connecticut appears likely to follow Massachusetts’ lead and require nursing home staff to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he expects to make an announcement on the issue within the next 24 hours.
“We’re definitely thinking about that,” Lamont told reporters following a press conference in Manchester. “We’ve been talking to the nursing homes. Given where we were, [with] nursing homes 16 months ago, it’s more important than ever. We know a lot of the vaccinations are wearing off in the elder community where they maybe don’t keep the antibodies as long. So I think that’s going to be a priority for us. I think we’ll have something to say on it within 24 hours.”
Lamont said the mandate could likely be accomplished through an executive order under the state’s emergency declarations, which remain in effect until at least Sept. 30. Max Reiss, his chief spokesman, said the administration was still ironing out the details of a nursing home order which could also require a testing component.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that staff at all nursing home facilities in that state will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 10. The mandate will impact 378 skilled nursing home facilities and two long term care facilities for veterans. As of Monday, 155 facilities in Massachusetts had less than 75% of staff vaccinated, according to a press release.
There are 214 skilled nursing homes in Connecticut. As of last month, only 45% of Connecticut nursing homes reported at least three quarters of their staff members vaccinated against the virus. The average nursing home staff vaccination rate was 72% on July 18, according to Public Health Department statistics.
Last week, the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities released a statement urging nursing home employees to get vaccinated. The group also expressed support for facilities that adopted their own vaccine mandates despite chronic staffing shortages, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Even considering very real staffing concerns, certainly there are merits to having a staff vaccine mandate apply equally across the long term care system, and even equally beyond nursing homes to the health care provider community across the board,” Matt Barrett, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
“If Connecticut state government adopted such a policy, the public should expect that Connecticut nursing homes would comply without any hesitancy with such a directive,” Barrett said. “Some are already moving in this direction.”
Paul Liistro, who operates nursing homes in Manchester and Vernon, has already mandated vaccinations or weekly testing for his 350 employees. Liistro said Monday they will be disciplined if they don’t show up for the weekly test and after three citations facility operators have the ability to terminate an employee. Right now nursing home workers only have to get tested monthly, according to CDC guidelines.