NYS assisted living officials say staff members need vaccinations now | WNYT.com

NYS assisted living officials say staff members need vaccinations now

Emily Burkhard
Updated: December 30, 2020 11:22 PM
Created: December 30, 2020 11:18 PM

An official representing assisted living facilities across New York told NewsChannel 13 not a single vaccine dose has been administered to residents or staff members so far. She's now calling on the state to do something about that.

"What we are doing is trying to raise awareness and ask the department to respond to this request that they open up the vaccine to our staff now,” Lisa Newcomb, Executive Director of the empire State Association of Assisted Living, said Wednesday.

Newcomb said since the start of the pandemic, hospitals have received "outsized" attention, while long term care facilities were left behind when it came to staffing, financial assistance and even PPE; and vaccinations have been no different.

She said at the very least, staff members should be prioritized.

"Because our staff are generally understood to bring the virus into the building, unknowingly,” Newcomb said. “They don't have symptoms, so in order to protect our residents while they are waiting for the vaccine it is critical that our staff have immediate access to the vaccination and as of now we do not."

Officials at the New York State Department of Health sent this statement in response:

"Right now the focus is on frontline healthcare workers, nursing home residents and nursing home staff. That is a universe of 2 million. So far, we have vaccinated more than 200k. This remains the focus and we will talk about next steps over the next few weeks."

While there are differences between nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Newcomb said many of the risks direct care workers face are the same.

"They need a lot of assistance however with everyday living, walking, dressing, bathing, and taking their medications,” she said. “The average age for assisted living is 89 years old. So, they are older and frail and they are vulnerable living congregate settings."

On Monday, Governor Cuomo said next week they'll continue work on getting vaccines to people living and working in those facilities.

“We expect open to ambulatory healthcare workers, public facing public healthcare workers again including those administering the COVID-19 tests,” he said.

Newcomb also alleged that hospitals are "hoarding" vaccines. NewsChannel 13 asked DOH if they had any knowledge of that, but they did not address that claim in their response Wednesday night.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.

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