An announcement from the Governor’s Office today could be key as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, and as the North Adams Commons Nursing Home is dealing with an outbreak of positive cases of COVID-19.  

Governor Charlie Baker announced today plans to implement a vaccine mandate for long-term care staff to strengthen infection control and protect vulnerable residents. COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective method for preventing infection and serious illness from the virus, and staff at long-term care facilities and other health care providers serving vulnerable populations are critical in efforts to protect older residents. 

According to the Executive Office of Health and Human Service, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Commonwealth has taken significant steps to support nursing facility residents and staff, including providing over $260 million in state funding, staffing supports, and providing over 2.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment, on top of $180 million in federal funding.  

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The state has also increased facility accountability through regular infection control surveys and other compliance audits and imposing admission freezes. Today’s actions reinforce the state’s commitment to ensuring the safety and care for these residents, some of our most vulnerable residents. 

There are 378 skilled nursing facilities (Level I-III), as well as the two Soldiers’ Homes in Massachusetts. As of August 2nd, 155 facilities had less than 75% of their staff fully vaccinated.  

Here is the Long-Term Care Staff Vaccine Mandate: 

Skilled Nursing Facilities, as well as the two Soldiers’ Homes in Massachusetts, will be required to ensure all personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A Public Health Order will be issued for non-state operated skilled nursing facilities and emergency regulations will be filed for the two state-operated soldiers’ homes.  

Personnel includes all individuals employed directly or by contract by the Long-Term Care provider. All unvaccinated personnel are to receive a first dose of a two-dose series by September 1st, 2021 – and be fully vaccinated by October 10th, 2021. To ensure compliance, beginning October 10th, 2021, the Department of Public Health will enforce the mandate for provider-operated Skilled Nursing Homes. 

The requirement will provide exemptions for those with medical restrictions or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving the vaccination. 

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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