Nearly three quarters of the more than 600 long-term care facilities that fall under a state mandate requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 reported that 95% of their staff are fully or partially immunized, the Department of Public Health said Friday, more than two weeks after the deadline.
Long-term care facilities — including nursing homes, assisted living centers, residential care homes, chronic disease hospitals, intermediate care facilities and managed residential communities — had to report their staff participation to the state by Sept. 28. All employees of those facilities were required to be immunized against COVID-19 unless they obtained a religious or medical exemption.
Facilities that do not comply face fines of up to $20,000 per day.
Two hundred and twenty-six facilities, or 35%, of the 643 long-term care centers under the edict failed to report their participation by the Sept. 28 deadline, the state said. By Oct. 8, 167 facilities still had not complied.
Health department officials said they will begin issuing notices of fines next week to those that failed to report by the deadline or that have neglected to report at all.
Some of the underreporting “may have resulted from the decision by facilities [that] share buildings and staff to report all covered [long-term care] workers under a single facility so as not to double-count the number of workers subject to the order,” state officials said.
The health department has since revised its reporting system so facilities can clarify whether they are consolidating their data into a single report.
The state did not release facility-by-facility information, but it did reveal how many facilities in each industry failed to report vaccination rates.
Twenty-one of the 114 assisted living centers did not report, while only four of the 209 nursing homes failed to submit their data. Twenty-seven of the 95 residential care homes did not report; and 79 of the 137 managed residential communities failed to submit information. Thirty-five of the 85 intermediate care facilities failed to hand in data, while one of three chronic disease hospitals did not report its rates.
Three hundred and ninety-four workers across all of the long-term care centers claimed medical exemptions; 1,623 were granted religious exemptions. Another 834 of the employees were listed as unvaccinated for reasons not disclosed.
To be granted a medical exemption, nursing home workers must obtain an attestation from a physician that says the exemption is medically necessary and provides an explanation of the employee’s condition. That document is submitted to nursing home management, which in turn decides whether to approve or deny an exemption.
Managers at each facility are also responsible for reviewing and making decisions about religious exemptions.
“We commend the long-term care community for achieving such high vaccination rates,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state’s public health commissioner, said in a statement Friday. “The residents of our long-term care facilities are some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state. We applaud the tens of thousands of vaccinated long-term care workers for prioritizing the health and safety of the patients and residents under their care as well as the health and safety of themselves, their families, and their co-workers.”