DENVER — All workers, visitors and residents at residential care facilities in Colorado are now required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. The new guidance was shared Tuesday night by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
Employees in Denver's nursing homes will also need to be fully vaccinated by September 30 because of the city's new order.
"I was very excited because I think as healthcare workers it is important that we protect our residents," said Janet Snipes, executive director of Holly Heights Care Center.
The facility said 75% of their staff has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That means a quarter of their employees still need a shot.
"I am a little hesitant though because we are very close to Arapahoe County and employees could choose to go get a job in a different location," she said.
She's hoping no employees leave because of the mandate but said it is a possibility. Her nursing home plans to meet with all of the unvaccinated employees and talk to them about why it is important to get the vaccine. This comes at a time when long-term care facilities across the state are struggling with hiring staff.
"I think a lot of it is because of the pandemic and the reputation nursing homes received during the pandemic," said Snipes.
Snipes said Holly Heights Care Center is in the process of closing down one of their neighborhoods because they don't have the staff to take care of patients in three separate locations.
"When we have fewer staff, it’s fewer people to take care of residents," said Snipes. "And at times have had to put admissions on hold because we don’t have enough staff to take care of our residents."
The president of Colorado Health Care Association (CHCA), the group that represents these facilities, was also concerned about what happens with employment in nursing homes.
"Especially in those settings where you have 50 or 60% vaccination rate, if a mandate came through and those employees chose to leave long term care, then we are in a position where it is very difficult to hire," said Doug Farmer, president of CHCA.
Farmer said he knows long-term care providers that have the space to take in residents but they don't have the staff to bring them in.
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