Residents at The Reservoir in West Hartford were among the first nursing home dwellers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut. AP Photo
Workers at long-term care facilities must be vaccinated under an order from Gov. Ned Lamont. AP Photo

Workers at nursing homes, residential care homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities will have to be vaccinated by Sept. 7 or their workplaces will face a $20,000 penalty per day, Gov. Ned Lamont announced late Friday.

“It would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility to not receive [vaccinations for COVID-19] that could prevent widespread infection among those who are most vulnerable from dying of this communicable disease, some of whom for medical reasons cannot be vaccinated themselves,” he said. “I applaud the staff of our long-term care facilities for everything they do to protect our older populations.”

The facilities under the order also include intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities, managed residential communities and chronic disease hospitals.

Lamont cited a recent “significant increase of COVID-19 in nursing homes among staff and residents.” In the last three weeks, there have been 51 cases of COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities, compared to the six cases reported over the previous three weeks.

The state’s nursing homes report an average vaccination rate of 72% among staff, but those rates for individual nursing homes vary widely, anywhere between 28% and 100%. Some nursing homes have already adopted vaccine mandates prior to Lamont’s announcement but others, fearing labor shortages, were waiting on the Governor to impose an industry-wide requirement, the Mirror previously reported.

Employees must have at least a first dose by the Sept. 7 deadline.

Leaders of the state’s two largest nursing home associations both praised the Lamont administration’s decision.

“When implemented on a wide scale, the staff vaccine mandate will provide maximum protection for all residents, staff and others in our communities from the known and substantial risks of COVID-19,” said Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents 145 of the state’s 211 nursing homes.

Barrett added extending the order beyond nursing homes is essential. And while Lamont did include several other types of facilities, Barrett said it should apply to all hospitals and also to home health care services.

Connecticut’s 27 acute care hospitals have agreed to impose coronavirus vaccine mandates for workers, though they are not included in Lamont’s order.

“As the most effective tool to protect vulnerable older adults from the virus, we have advocated for the widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccination for all staff in healthcare, senior care, and senior living communities,” said Mag Morelli, president of Leading Age Connecticut. “We will continue to work in partnership with the state Department of Public Health to implement this new executive order.”

CT Mirror Reporter Keith M. Phaneuf contributed to this report.

This story will be updated.

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Stephen BusemeyerManaging Editor

As CT Mirror's Managing Editor Stephen helps manage and support a staff of 11 reporters.  His career in daily journalism includes 20 years at The Hartford Courant, where he served as a member of the editorial board, data editor, breaking news editor and bureau chief.  Prior to that Stephen was city editor at the Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo., and the editor of the Daily Press in Craig, Colo.  He was won many awards for editorial writing, data journalism and breaking news. While he was breaking news editor, The Courant was a named finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings.  Busemeyer is a Koeppel Journalism Fellow at Wesleyan University, where he teaches data journalism, and he has also taught at the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut and the University of Colorado.