With COVID-19 surging in NC, some say long-term care facility workers should be mandated to get vaccine

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It was another record-breaking week, with COVID-19 cases continuing to climb across the country and in the Triangle.

With the most recent spike of cases, there are a growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks at local long-term care facilities.

The Wake County Health Department reported three new outbreaks at long-term care facilities, bringing the total to seven.

One local advocacy group told CBS 17 that now is the time that legislators and health leaders need to step in and mandate vaccinations for employees.

“Upwards of 84 percent of everyone [in North Carolina] aged 65 and up is fully vaccinated… that includes our long-term care residents,” said Lauren Zingraff, the executive director of Friends of Residents in Long Term Care, an advocacy group for residents in such facilities.

But only 54 percent of North Carolina health care workers at these facilities have had their COVID-19 shot.

Zingraff said that’s not going to cut it.

“We know that vaccinations are the way to get us out of COVID-19 and so that is not enough to only have half of our staff vaccinated,” she explained.

Zingraff believes vaccinations need to be mandated for employees at long-term care homes to save lives.

“This is life or death. This is going to our medically fragile residents, our elders, our seniors, and people who already have compromised immune systems and who are highly likely to catch COVID and more likely to suffer severe illness or possibly even die from it,” she added.

A representative Wake County Health Department told CBS 17 they are not requiring health care workers at long-term care facilities to get the vaccine.

However, health leaders are encouraging vaccinations to management at these homes, when there are outbreaks.

Zingraff is worried that it’s not going to be enough to keep residents physically and mentally healthy.

“There was another pandemic happening of loneliness, social isolation, depression and anxiety. We just cannot go back and do that again. We must protect our long-term care residents. They are our most fragile and we cannot have them go through something like that again,” she explained. “This is something that can be prevented and if you’re vaccinated, you can prevent the delta variant from getting yourself sick or other people sick.”

Even so, the vaccine is not 100 percent effective

At least one of the recent outbreaks in Wake County, at Cadence at Wake Forest, was due to breakthrough cases.

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