On Nov. 4, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an interim final rule requiring direct care workers in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified health care settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Staff at these health care facilities must have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 5, 2021. All eligible staff must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) have released the following statement attributed to association President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson on the interim final rule:

“Once again, we appreciate the Biden Administration’s efforts to ensure that as many workers as possible in all health care settings are vaccinated. Nursing home providers have dedicated themselves to increasing staff vaccination rates, and as a result, three-quarters of employees are fully vaccinated today. We are committed to forging ahead and encouraging all staff members to get these safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

“While we support the overall intent of this CMS policy, we are concerned that the execution will exacerbate an already dire workforce crisis in long term care. A hard deadline with no resources for providers or glide path for unvaccinated workers is likely to push too many out the door and, ultimately, threaten residents’ access to long term care.

“Even a small percentage of staff members leaving their jobs due to this mandate would have a disastrous impact on vulnerable seniors who need around-the-clock care. Across the country, access to long term care is becoming strained as providers have no choice but to limit admissions or even close their doors due to workforce shortages. We hope to continue working with the Administration to make the federal vaccine mandate successful while supporting our residents and caregivers.”

Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its vaccine requirement for all employers with more than 100 employees.
AHCA/NCAL weighed in on the OSHA rule, which may affect certain assisted living companies, with a statement from NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea:

“We commend the efforts of the Biden Administration to vaccinate millions more of our essential workers against COVID-19. Assisted living communities and other residential care facilities are deeply focused on encouraging our frontline workers to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated to protect their vulnerable residents.

“We appreciate the policies set forth in the OSHA emergency temporary standard, including the weekly testing option for unvaccinated staff members. Such flexibilities are a vital step to avoid further exacerbating the critical workforce shortage in long term care. NCAL will review the emergency temporary standard in further detail, and we look forward to submitting comments.”

AHCA/NCAL to Host Member Webinar on CMS and OSHA Vaccine Mandates

On Friday, Nov. 5, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, AHCA/NCAL’s Parkinson and Chief Medical Officer David Gifford, MD, will host an all-member webinar to provide an overview of these vaccine mandate rules, who is impacted by which, and how to get started with implementation of either the CMS or the OSHA vaccine mandate.

Registration is not required, but attendees are encouraged to log in 15 minutes prior to the start of the webinar.