CLEVELAND — Local families and the Ohio Health Care Association are hoping exempting fully vaccinated employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities from COVID-19 testing will encourage more of these workers to get inoculated.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Monday those fully vaccinated are now exempt from normal routine COVID-19 testing at those facilities, however, staff who are not fully vaccinated will have to continue to be tested twice a week.
"We hope that this change will give encouragement to those who work in nursing homes, who have not been vaccinated yet, to take advantage of the opportunity," DeWine said.
Ohio Health Care Association Executive Director Peter Van Runkle told News 5 about 55% of nursing home and assisted living employees have taken the vaccine. Van Runkle wants that number to be 75% or higher, especially since these workers are making up a greater percentage of new COVID-19 cases.
“It used to be that staff was about 40% of the total cases, now it’s 60%," Van Runkle said.
“This is all about rewarding the staff that has gotten vaccinated, this is really the better way to protect against COVID. I think it’s a power incentive, it’s something that we had recommended back around Christmas time to the governor.”
Van Runkle said exempting fully vaccinated employees from testing will help agencies across the state better maintain staffing levels because a significant number of workers left their jobs to seek employment elsewhere because of the heavy testing requirements.
“Very detrimental to them in terms of them wanting to stay employed, because we’ve lost people in our profession because of that," Van Runkle said.
“That’s invasive, that’s a burden when you add that on top of everything else that they have to deal with."
Sam Hemoud, whose 75-year-old father is getting care at an Avon Lake nursing home, believes Ohio lifting the COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated employees is the right thing to do.
Hemoud is also hoping it will motivate more of these employees to get vaccinated, further improving safety against the virus for northeast Ohio's most vulnerable population.
“These workers are coming and going, and the weather is getting nicer and things are opening back up, and I think they need to do the right thing," Hemoud said.
“I think they need to do the right thing because they are in that type of work environment and they take care of the most critical.”
“Whether you want to or not, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s for the right people.”