coronavirus in connecticut

Vaccine Mandate? Nursing Home Families Worry What Happens Without One

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The delta variant’s ability to breakthrough vaccinations has nursing home residents and their families concerned. They are wondering about another visitor lockout. 

“I fear another lockdown would progress her dementia even further. She needs absolutely everything done for her,” Tania Ryea of Tolland said. 

Ryea’s mother is in a long-term care facility and during 2020 her dementia progressed.

“My mother ends up in a wheelchair, she’s no longer feeding herself, she’s no longer responding to basic questions such as what is my name?” Ryea said. 

Ryea said she was hesitant about the vaccine, but did it for her mother. 

“I can’t depend on everyone else to be that cautious. And it’s scary, if one person gets tested positive the whole place gets locked down,” she said.

There is currently no vaccine mandate for workers at nursing homes or long-term care facilities. 

“Right now it’s just so important for nursing home owners to lead the way and showcase how important the vaccine is,” AARP’s Nora Duncan said. 

“These are private enterprises so it’s up to them as I said before I can’t think of anything more logical than making sure those nurses are all vaccinated,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. 

Athena Health Care Systems, which owns 24 nursing homes in Connecticut, has yet to implement a vaccine mandate. 

“We continue to advocate for all our employees to get the vaccine,” Tim Brown, a spokesman for Athena, said. 

Brown said they’ve used cash incentives and education, including one-on-one discussion with their staff about the vaccine. 

“We recently surpassed 70% and we continue to advocate and educate to improve that number,” Brown said. 

Paul Liistro, who owns nursing homes in Manchester and Vernon, said he will mandate his employees to get vaccinated. 

“And we are suggesting that everybody who does not get vaccinated get tested weekly,” Liistro added. 

He said they will be disciplined if they don’t show up for the weekly test and after three citations they have the ability to terminate an employee. 

Right now nursing home workers only have to get tested monthly, according to CDC guidelines. 

Statewide the average vaccination rate for staff in nursing homes is 72%.

“My fear is if there is a lockdown or lockout that she does not get the requirements that she needs,” Ryea said. 

There’s no replacement for human contact. 

”It’s my mom and sometimes I just need a hug from my mom,” Ryea said.

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