As the United States faces a deadly new variant of the COVID virus and persistent reluctance against vaccination, both President Biden and Maryland Governor Hogan announced new vaccination mandates for all nursing home and hospital staff.
The U.S. seemed to have turned a corner on the pandemic, with the debut of several highly effective and free vaccines, which became available to the public in early 2021. Vulnerable populations, such as nursing home residents, received priority access to the vaccines. While 82% of nursing home residents have received vaccination, only 60% of nursing home staff members have voluntarily received vaccination. This has put lawmakers in the undesirable position of mandating the vaccination of health care workers to protect the vulnerable populations they interact with.
Vaccination mandates come from state and feds
On August 18, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that nursing home workers would have to get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID screening. In his press address, he stated, “We are concerned that the Delta variant surge has led to an increase in infections among nursing home staff, which has been a consistent source of the outbreaks in these facilities. Our main focus has always been, and continues to be, reducing hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among our most vulnerable Marylanders.”
Governor Hogan announced that penalties would be levied against facilities that fail to comply with the new protocol. President Biden added additional incentive for nursing homes to require vaccines at the federal level by making vaccination against COVID-19 a requirement for receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. “If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said.
Enough is enough?
The nation’s nursing homes have borne the brunt of the pandemic with 133,736 total resident COVID-19 deaths (plus another 2,004 staff member deaths), according to CDC figures. Perhaps less known is the misery endured by those who have survived. Nursing homes had been isolating residents to prevent the spread of COVID from visiting friends and loved ones by banning visitation rights for a year or more to prevent the deadly spread of the virus to this extremely vulnerable population. Some experts speculate whether the isolation was so cruel and even deadly that it might not be worth the protection it offers.
Just as nursing homes began to control the spread of COVID and were able to relax restrictions, the threat of a resurgent COVID variant has put the residents of nursing homes back in jeopardy. Fearing a repeat of the disastrous impact of COVID on nursing home communities that occurred the start of the pandemic, state and federal governments are intervening to protect residents by mandating vaccination for the staff they contact regularly.
“No one has suffered more during the pandemic than the residents of nursing homes, said Brian Brown, a founding partner at Brown & Barron, a Baltimore law firm specializing in nursing home cases. “As a society, we have a duty to protect the vulnerable, especially the elderly.”
The COVID virus has proved easier to defeat than the chaotic social climate in the United States. Misinformation campaigns, particularly through social media, have convinced millions of Americans to doubt the danger of the COVID virus as well as the safety or efficacy of the vaccines, capitalizing on political polarization and general distrust of government and health care organizations. The result is that a key segment of the country refuses to vaccinate, including many health care workers in the nursing home industry. Rather than placing hope in the holdouts to voluntary vaccinate, Hogan and Biden have decided to use their powers to protect nursing home residents.
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing the victims of medical malpractice and nursing home abuse/neglect. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable patients and residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical malpractice or nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options. To contact our team, call (410) 698-1717 today for a consultation.