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Baker Administration Mandates Vaccinations for Long-Term Care Staff

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BOSTON — The state's implementing a vaccine mandate for long-term care staff beginning Sept. 1. 
The announcement through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services on Wednesday follows a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases among vaccinated individuals, including breakthrough infections at a local nursing home in North Adams. The infections are suspected to be of the novel coronavirus's Delta variant, which is highly transmissible even among vaccinated individuals. 
According to the Baker-Polito administration, fewer than three-quarters of the staff in 155 of the state's skilled nursing facilities were vaccinated.
The mandate affects all 378 skilled nursing facilities as well as the two Soldiers' Homes 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 nursing home. All unvaccinated personnel are to receive a first dose of a two-dose series by Sept. 1 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10. To ensure compliance, beginning Oct. 10, the Department of Public Health will enforce this mandate for provider-operated skilled nursing homes.
DPH will have the authority to stop admissions at nursing home with fewer than 75 percent of personnel vaccinated until the facility reaches that percentage.
The requirement will provide exemptions for those with medical restrictions or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving vaccination.
North Adams Commons now reports 41 residents and six personnel being COVID-19 positive, with majority being vaccinated. It has stopped all visitation as residents quarantine. Six residents have been hospitalized but the majority reportedly are showing no symptoms. A nursing home spokesperson last week said the vaccination rate for staff was about 67, on par with the rate for the Berkshires overall. 

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