A threat even more dangerous than COVID-19. That is what Oklahoma's nursing homes are afraid of after a new mandate from The White House.
“An untenable crisis that could result in facility closures and the complete abandonment of vulnerable seniors," said Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steve Buck.
A new mandate from President Joe Biden, this week, requires all nursing home staff in the United States to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is extremely frustrating and disappointing to see the Biden administration single out nursing homes as the only healthcare provider facing a federal vaccination mandate," Buck said.
President Biden announced Wednesday the decision was made to protect those most vulnerable to the virus.
Long term care facilities in Oklahoma were some of the hardest hit by the virus over the past year. Nearly 11,000 nursing home residents in the state have tested positive for COVID, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 2,000 of them have died from the virus.
Buck said senior living health is improving since the winter surge. The Oklahoma State Department of Health's latest data shows nursing home COVID cases account for less than 3 percent of the state's total positive tests.
“Clearly the safest place for seniors in Oklahoma when it comes to COVID-19 protection," Buck said.
Vaccination rates reported by CMS show Oklahoma nursing home residents are right near the national average of 82 percent. However, long term care staff are 48 percent vaccinated compared to the 61 percent national average.
"There needs to be people available to serve these seniors," Buck said.
He worries senior living healthcare workers will bypass the shot and look for other employment, especially since assisted living and hospice care workers are not included in the mandate.
"This mandate, if it goes into effect, will have people leaving the job and leaving the seniors who rely upon us," Buck said.
Buck said all nursing homes will follow the mandate, because 95 percent of 97 percent of their funding is provided by CMS.
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